Monday, December 29, 2014

Diabolical Taste (Kenssie #2) by Ros Jackson

It’s hard for Kenssie to get any respect as the young thrall to Rakmanon, a demon who feeds on shame, especially since he relies on the smitten younger demon to be an emergency snack

But when circumstances force Rakmanon to move them to Lincolnshire and a deep secret from his past returns, Kenssie begins to see different viewpoints – and look twice at Rakmanon’s grip on her and just how much is she willing to lose and see destroyed at his say-so.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I liked the first book quite a lot because it was quirky, original and funny. The world setting was weird, the irreverence pretty hilarious and it was a wonderful, fluffy story of complete and utter weirdness made into a wonderful madlib of a book. It was fun, it wasn’t deep, it was quirky but I didn’t envisage it going anywhere. This was part of the reason why I understood it was so short – because, to quote myself:
 I think it would have collapsed under its own weight if it were too long, like a big sugary confection – sweet and light and tasty and fun but not intended to be substantial.

So when I received the second book, I worried. And there were problems as the story of the first book was hastily dragged into something more substantial. The setting changed abruptly without any real explanation why (except for plot convenience). Kenssie made some decisions that didn’t seem to make any sense at all (her rapid friendship of Otis for example and then deciding to keep it secret from Rakmanon). I think Kenssie herself also was a little inconsistent – at times a very immature 16 year old (in fact, much younger) which seemed to be the tone of the first half of the book to emphasise how naïve and vulnerable she is. But during the book she transforms into a much more mature, confident character – and there isn’t a natural progression there, it just seems to happen.

I also think that, at times, the zany weirdness of this book is just a little forced. It’s a funny book that, at times, feels like it’s trying really really hard to be funny and the strain shows and is a little cringeworthy.

Ok, those are the bad points. On the plus side it has generally succeeded in extracting something more substantial. Kenssie, by the end of this book, is a much more engaging character. I can see this character having a storyline worth following, making her own way in the world and becoming a full person far more so than the Kenssie in the first book. This Kenssie is much more capable, much more active and much more an agent in her own fate. She also has a moral streak in the way she feeds which is nice to see as well, both in her development and the lens it puts over greater demonic society

I also like that this book has addressed one of the inherent problematic elements of the world – demons use thralls as servants and emergency food. This book makes it clear exactly what that relationship is – it’s a form of slavery. It also really underlines exactly how Kenssie is treated and doesn’t flinch from showing it as deeply wrong even while keeping the light hearted feel of the book. I think through Rakmanon’s experiences we also see a lot more of demonic society and just have brutal and predatory it is – even with all the light and humourous trappings of the world we can see demons constantly looking for prey includes each other – perhaps especially includes each other given the nature of thralls.

I also like the little twist in how different demons with the same food source use different methods to feed – it’s a nice addition.

Inclusionwise no LGBT people, no real developed characters beyond Kenssie herself – and there are no POC characters. There is one demon who is described as having “Indian features” but also that their demonic colouring/camouflage/evolution happens to give her entirely white colouring. This is not good inclusion

So… this book was decent, but not great. But it was necessary in transforming the stand alone story to something more substantial for more to be built onto it. It wasn’t done gracefully – but it needed to be done and we ended somewhere very good for more to be built onto it. A series has been pulled out of this book and I didn’t think that would be possible