Monday, July 16, 2018

The Accidental Demonslayer (Accidental Demon Slayer #1) by Angie Fox

Lizzie was living a perfectly ordinary life when a demon appeared in her bathroom. And her dog started talking to her

Turns out she has inherited the legacy of the Demon Slayers and her guide to this new world is her long estranged grandmother, witch, biker and expert in the many uses of road kill.

She and a handesome shapeshifting griffin need to train her in this new world - especially since there’s a very powerful demon looking for her

There’s some elements of this book I really like, especially Lizzie’s origin. Lizzie was a nice, normal, school teacher. She has a nice, safe, mundane life and she’s dragged to her supernatural legacy by her grandma

And I love the grandma. Her grandma is part of a rather elderly coven who have managed to survive, alone of all the covens, in the face of a demon hunting them because they’re gloriously unconventional. They’re nomadic, bikers and their Earth Magic draws upon a whole lot of scavenging and road kill. And I kind of love this - I love this take on magic not being pretty or nice. I love how it’s by being so unorthodox that the biker granny witches have survived and I like that we have this really excellent collection of kick arse older women each doing their own thing and being decidedly indecorous about it. The coven rocks.

And I really like how Lizzie fits in with granny and this coven - i.e. not at all. She’s a nice conventional, a little boring, school teacher. She doesn’t ride motorbikes. She doesn’t fight demons. She doesn’t get dirty. She doesn’t eat road kill. And I like how her rejection of this kind of screws up Lizzie and the coven for a while with Lizzie making a major mistake because she IS human. I love how it sets up this conflict of Lizzie trying to adapt to this new life - while slowly learning to embrace it (I especially love the ending here).

There’s also a magical companion dog but meh, doesn’t mean a lot, manages not to be annoying or intriguing which is kind of weird for magical companion animals but does manage to make Lizzie look a bit of a dick for caring more about this dog than various people.

Anyone who has read my reviews knows the review is now going to take a negative turn as I talk about THE ROMANCE. I hate the romance in this story.

We have Dmitri, a Griffin (of course) who is… ambiguously secretive for no damn good reason for most of the book. I mean we get the answers right near the end for some pointless romance conflict but there’s no reason he couldn’t have been introduced with all of this. I mean he appears and Granny is all “we can’t trust him even though all he’s done is help us and we’d all be dead” but there’s never any reason why Granny doesn’t trust him or can’t explain a little about why she’s suspicious. Or even say he’s a Griffin! I mean, sort of relevant? Instead we have this convoluted mystery so Dmitri and Lizzie can fast forward themselves into a “romance” (if your only criteria for falling for someone is “he’s hot” is it even a romance? Because we know nothing else about him) and Lizzie can continually bounce between “zomg he’s so hot” and “Granny said not to trust him”. I mean this whole unnecessary mystery is there JUST so Lizzie can be conflicted about the relationship. And then when the inevitable happens and we find out that *GASP* Dmitri was looking for a Demon Slayer to take down the big bad for his own reasons and Lizzie is super offended by this because… reasons? It feels like another romance trope that is just shoe-horned in there because this is what romances are supposed to look like: mysterious hot guy, convoluted misunderstanding, etc etc conflict because conflict

And while these kinds of romances are fairly typical in a lot of Urban Fantasy, it stands out as especially annoying to me because it’s not the only unnecessary-conflict introduced to the book which is then dealt with annoyingly quickly: it’s like, to that core of an interesting story and original plot we needed some filler to make up the page numbers. Another example is Dmitri deciding to badmouth grandma to create more conflict and it turns out to be a weird misunderstanding with absolutely no bearing on the plot. Or there’s Lizzie’s mother dropping in for like, three pages, to drop some angst bombs and then huff away because Lizzie isn’t playing. Or there’s the werewolves who they stay with for a while and who have their own issues but Lizzie & the Biker Grannies just kind of hang around, nod at the problems, them leave. Ok like any of these could have been decent plot twists but none of them were developed in any significant way or even finished properly (beyond the convoluted misunderstandings which are kind of just mehd away) which leaves me questioning why they are there. But if you remove them you realise there isn’t much of a plot there.

In fact the pacing is kind of off odd towards the end. We start with the awesome - this poor school teacher dragged into the world of the supernatural by her very odd Granny-Witch-Biker and having to deal with demons, monsters and road kill. We drop in to a kind of training montage where Lizzie learns what it means to be a demon slayer (and this is a decent part of the book but somewhat shaky because no-one can actually train her and her powers don’t require any skill and it all kind of resolves into “just do it” and then just being able to do it which, I think could have worked so much better if we didn’t have all the filler plot lines) and then suddenly we’re on the last battle. And it’s testament to how much of an excellent job this book did of setting up the big bad as a big bad that I was surprised that she even confronted him this book. Surely this confrontation would happen around book 6 and lead to a huge reboot of the series? It just feels kind of jarring - we have this awesome beginning then we don’t get to the middle part where Lizzie learns her powers in any concrete way but is instead distracted by lots of random tropes and then confronts the big bad by virtue of the fact she’s just that special and just needs to accept this rather than, y’know, learn or train or master anything.

I feel that the core story - Lizzie learning about the supernatural, Lizzie rejecting this new world that is dropped onto her normal life because it’s not just dangerous but also difficult, comes with powers she doesn’t understand and, under all that, a lifestyle that she really doesn’t want to embrace with it full of discomfort, road kill, travel etc. All developed as Lizzie learns more, embraces this new weird family and comes into her own. These parts of the book are excellent - seeing Lizzie spar with the various magical biker grandmas, clash with them, not understand them and slowly develop mutual respect and understanding really really works well and I love it. But then we have random werewolves, hot griffin guy with lots of really unnecessary misunderstandings and general distractions which don’t go anywhere

Some of the werewolves are POC including the most prominent of them which would be decent if they were, as I said, relevant to the plot a bit more. There are no LGBTQ characters, but this book is full of female characters, barring one elderly disabled man and the hot Dmitri, all the important people are Lizzie are women with some very different personalities and different ways of being them as rough and ready as they come