It's a hell of a place...
Book Links: Goodreads
It's always a worrying experience when you adore the first entry to a trilogy and then pick up the instalment that succeeds it. Will it be as good? Or will it be a typical novel that bridges one brilliant beginning to its finale?
Well, let me tell you, Derek Landy's middle entry to his trilogy is a phenomenal ride. Desolation, of course, has the aura of an overall story that isn't yet complete, but it also packs one powerful punch as it stoutly stands on its own.
Mixing supernatural horror, mystery, and effortless wit, Landy cultivates a fresh adventure in a world full of shadowy crevices yet to be explored.
Synopsis (This time round, I'll be using the blurb that comes with my edition of the book.)
Reeling from their bloody encounter in New York City at the end of Demon Road, Amber and Milo flee north. On their trail are the Hounds of Hell - five demonic bikers who will stop at nothing to drag their quarries back to their unholy master.
Amber and Milo's only hope lies within Desolation Hill - a small town with a big secret; a town with a darkness to it, where evil seeps through the very floorboards. Until, on one night every year, it spills over onto the streets and all hell breaks loose.
AND THAT NIGHT IS COMING...
Plot - 4.5/5 Stars
'They were alive when she walked in.'
Yep, I'm starting with another feisty first sentence that grabs you by the neck. Is Derek Landy the king of sassy sentences? I don't know, but so far, his beginnings are on point. Desolation starts with action and leads into a captivating mystery. This entry's location, Desolation Hill, Alaska, proves to be a fantastic place to be (if you love murder and mayhem, of course). Where Demon Road, the predecessor, takes place across a bigger part of America, Desolation doesn't disappoint with its more stationary surroundings.
This helps to even the plot, keeping it more or less on the same road forward, with a few pit stops to keep things spicy.
The last half is EVERYTHING! Landy builds the 'one night' mentioned in the blurb and executes it with admirable insanity. It's a hellish, addictive, and utterly hooking experience that showcases the dark facets of the author's brilliant mind. What's even more is the balance struck between horror and hilarity. Landy's ability to keep things funny without dampening the more serious elements of the novel is a skill most wish to possess.
A shocking conclusion sets up the final novel, and, in my opinion, I find it hard to see anyone finding this journey anything short of exhilarating.
Pace - 4.5/5 Stars
Thanks to this entry's ferocious ability to stand on its own two feet, it's a smooth and fascinating adventure. The plot unravels in ways capable of holding your attention, with twists, turns and surprises ready to pounce; the expansive cast doesn't always come together like in Demon Road, but Landy's chemistry and magic with words help bridge over the gaps.
Characters - 4/5 Stars
Amber and Milo return to be our predominant protagonists, and they work fantastically together. Their chemistry is a clash of sibling rivalry and father-daughter bonding, which makes their interactions heartwarming, funny, and interesting.
It's too bad that the expansive cast in Desolation limits the amount of time they spend together! And I miss Glen so much it's unreal. He does make an appearance a couple times throughout, but it's not the character we knew, and for good reason.
The rest of the players inside the novel fill out quite nicely, but there are a lot of them, and they can sometimes be spread a little thin in the personality and development categories. Overall, though, they merge pretty well into Landy's world, and I look forward to seeing how every character progresses in the final instalment.
What I love more than any of that, however, is how seamless Landy incorporates LGBT+ themes into his story. No character has to come out or define themselves; the author treats it the way most authors treat a heterosexual: Without a flashing sign. I honestly think Landy's interpretation is respectful, and the fact it doesn't shift focus away from the plot is even better.
So, colour me surprised when I perused some reviews to see what other reviewers thought. Especially in regards to Amber and new character Kelly's romantic relations. Amber is sixteen years old, while Kelly, if memory serves, is around eighteen to twenty. Quite a few people took a disliking to this, the gap between their ages, and go so far as to call Kelly a sexual predator grooming Amber.
Now, it might be that where I live, the UK, the legal age of consent is sixteen; or it could be that, at sixteen myself, I was in a relationship with someone years older than I was; but the very fact that some folks saw this as an 'adult' coercing a 'child' baffles me. Reducing Amber's character to a child with no sense of agency or intelligence rubs me the wrong way, because we're talking about a character that can turn into a demon and has, several times, ripped out the throats of her enemies.
I find it startlingly unbelievable that Amber is unable to stop the drastically weaker Kelly's advances. Especially if she wanted to. Reducing her character does a grave disservice to the groundwork Landy has put down. The fact an established author is putting a lesbian relationship in the forefront of one his novels is to be commended.
Also taking into consideration how tame those romantic relations are, and it seems like nitpicking just for the sake of it.
Writing - 4.5/5 Stars
With only a few small bumps, Desolation soars thanks to the author's writing abilities. The flow rocks and everything is conveyed with startling clarity.
Overall - 4.5/5 Stars
American Monsters, the final novel in the trilogy, isn't so long away, but Desolation kicks up a hunger that is insatiable.
Give me more!
Previous Instalment: Demon Road
Next Instalment: American Monsters
Don't forget, you can subscribe by email near the bottom of the blog (on desktop version) and have new posts delivered straight to you!