20 January 2012

Demon Girl by Penelope Fletcher

Spoilers Ahead

I don't know about you but I love e-books and e-readers. That's not to say I've given up on traditional books--they're still my favourite and always will be. But e-readers let me hang on to way more books than my already-full shelves will allow. They let me check out books I might not otherwise be interested in. They save my hands in winter (anyone else notice that paper just sucks the moisture right out of skin?) And most importantly they give a voice to writers who wouldn't stand a chance in the deeply flawed traditional publishing industry (sorry but when a semi-literate like Snooki can get a book deal while unknown--but excellent--writers get passed over, you know there's a problem...) Thanks to my Kindle I discovered Penelope Fletcher's voice in her debut novel, Demon Girl.

I have to start by mentioning the cover. I know we're not supposed to judge a book by its cover but in truth you can gauge a lot about a book that way. I've seen a lot of really bad covers among the e-books, mostly involving terrible computer graphics and cheesy/random stock photos. Demon Girl's cover is as pretty and well-designed as anything put out by a traditional publisher. Good job.

As for the story, it's part one of a three (or more?) part paranormal series. Rae Wilder lives in a world where the few remaining humans huddle behind a protected wall, hiding from the vicious demons running wild on the outside. Human society is ruled by the Sect and their Clerics, a draconian bunch who seek and destroy demon-kind wherever they find it. But Rae isn't an average human--she's stronger, faster, and has the irresistible desire to break the rules and explore beyond the wall. What she doesn't expect is to find a pair of Clerics torturing and killing a helpless--and harmless--young female fairy. When they hear Rae she knows she has to run, and when they let the tracking dogs loose she's in serious trouble.

From there Rae's life becomes one complicated mess. When her terror of the Clerics triggers the unbinding of a spell that's been masking her true "demon" (that is, fairy) nature behind a glamour of humanity she's no longer sure where she stands. As if discovering you're not actually human isn't enough of a shock she unwillingly becomes bonded to Braendan, a fellow fairy, and even more unwillingly ends up with a blood bond to vampire Tomas (naturally fairies and vamps aren't supposed to get along). While she's trying to get a grasp on her true nature and new reality she becomes enmeshed in the unpleasant--and violent--world of fairy politics and manipulations. Pretty overwhelming stuff.

Fletcher has come up with a good concept, but the execution is more often shaky than not. The interesting story is repeatedly bogged down by some truly illogical plot devices (why would Rae even consider returning to the Clerics' world after discovering she's a demon?) Rae also suffers from starting off as a pretty cool character who ends up frequently annoying and useless, whining her way through the book and passing out continually. The character of the White Witch is also pretty pointless. Luckily Braendan and Tomas are likeable-. Both are charming enough that they'll draw female readers right in, they're sensible, they're protective of Rae (again something maybe female readers will appreciate more) and they can kick serious ass. You can easily see why she's torn between them (I also kept wishing she'd follow their examples).

The book also suffers from poor editing. There are tons of mistakes throughout that are both distracting and annoying. A good editor could have also smoothed out the problems I mentioned above. Skimping on editing is the number one thing not to do as an author. And your friends don't count. On the other hand, as much as I can't stand editing issues, I still kept reading (sometimes staying up way too late as I had to see what happened next). That's got to count for something.

I thought the end of the book was done well--without giving too much away, enough got resolved so that it was satisfying but not so much that it was a little too tidy. There's plenty left to keep up interest in the rest of the series and I have a feeling (or at least a hope) that Rae will continue to evolve as a character.

Fletcher was only 23 when she wrote this book, which leaves a lot of time for future improvement. But the potential for her talent is definitely there and Demon Girl, despite all its issues, was still good enough that I bought the second book in the series. If you've got an e-reader I recommend giving Demon Girl a go. Support young talent and get your vampire fix while you're at it.

Fang Files

Appearance: Sickly pale human with red-ringed eyes and long, sharp fangs that descend when hungry, angry or excited. Their eyes become all black when the vampire fully emerges. Dead vampires turn to ash.

Strengths: Ability to hypnotize humans. Super strength and speed. Heightened senses. No need to breathe. Their bites initially hurt but then feel pleasurable to the victim. Quick healing.

Weaknesses: Sunlight, stakes, silver, decapitation, blood lust, starvation.

Mythology: A vampire's human body has died so they have no breath, heartbeat or body heat. Vampires need invitations into private residences. Vampires organize themselves into nests. Cannot turn humans--they are genetically mutated humans.

Text Bite

"The dead ones were not the kind of demons people dressed up to make scarier than they actually were. Vampires were the creatures you made nicer in stories to that you didn't pass out when reports came your way one had breached the Wall and eaten a few homeless people."

"People said vampires were soulless, and I did not agree. They had souls, dark ones. Here I must say I also believed there were different kinds of dark. There was a dark that was evil and cruel, and there was a dark that was solitary and simply absent of light."

Demon Girl: Book One of the Rae Wilder Novels
by Penelope Fletcher.

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