Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers (Accidental Demon Slayer #2) by Angie Fox

Lizzie needs an instruction book - being a demon slayer is definitely not a learn-on-the-job profession.

But she has no time to study - her uncle has fallen into the clutches of a succubus in Las Vegas. But on arrival there’s far worse than just one man’s life at stake - the entire city is under threat, none of her friends can help and Dmitri, the powerful griffin she loves, is dangerously compromised

The first book in this series has enough plot points to intrigue me - while also having a lot more elements I didn’t enjoy quite so much. I was hoping the balance reset and we saw more of the fish-out-of-water Lizzie trying to establish very normal self in the wild and whacky world of elderly biker witches and demons and griffins.

And… we didn’t really get that?

I kept checking to see if I’d skipped a book because Lizzie has suddenly developed a weird level of self-reliance. A major side plot, perhaps the entire theme of this book, is Lizzie trying to drive everyone off and insisting she has to do all this alone… and… since when? By the time line of the book she’s been doing this for about 2 or 3 weeks? But now she’s making multiple comments on how she needs to do all this alone, she doesn’t need help and… this would work in say, book 5? But now it’s odd: where did this come from?

It doesn’t help that we don’t have any real revelations of this book - or any development of the world building that would justify this level of confidence. One of the comic relief elements of this book is the fact she’s given a provisional license. That she doesn’t know how to be a demon slayer. She comically fails the test. She has a huge, and good, epic rant about how her mother had all the training and experience and she was just winging it. She even starts writing a book - The Dangerous Book of Demon Slayers - to guide others because they’re so rare and there’s so little guidance. Her approach to other supernatural in this book is, naturally, confusion

So why the self-reliance? Why the confidence? When she was asked to levitate her response was literally “I didn’t know we could do that!!!”

What matches this confusing lack of character development is a rather equal lack of world development. The witches use magic - which basically means icky things to freak Lizzie out  - and I say again what a shame this is. These witches, all older people, were driven out of their home and away from their own traditions and had to hit the road, developing their own cobbled together magic as bikers, transients, people without herb gardens or supplies. I would loved to have seen more of magic, the witches and their cobbled together need to use floss and mouth wash and road kill etc. This is such an utterly fascinating unique concept while, ordinary-woman-who-throws-shit-at-demons-while-whining-and-has-a-cute-animal-companion is dullllll and done done done.

We had ghosts in this book. We had fae. We had people saying fae are discriminated against, we had clearly other supernaturals, a bureaucracy, licensing for practitioners, a fairy godfather and OH MY GODS SHE DOESN’T QUESTION ANY OF IT. It’s just like “hey, this exists” which is great - but we never go beyond that. Give me depth

Because without a compelling, developed main character, without a compelling, developed world we’re left with the plot which, I’m afraid, also doesn’t pull me in. Like the characterisation, it’s not actively awful, it’s just lacking anything to drag me in. They arrive in town to find and save Lizzie’s uncle and manage to find and lose him. And then we just have a whole waffly bit in the middle Dmitri is in trouble, Uncle Phil is in trouble and they don’t seem to actually do a whole lot? There’s just a lot of flabby waffle round the centre of this book, lots of fretting over Dmtri (but not fixing it), lots of worrying whether they can trust a demon hunter (but not doing anything to find an answer for this), lots of fretting over the growing number of succubuses…. And there’s a lot of “oh we have no time!!!” DO SOMETHING THEN!!!!

It’s not bad, I have to stress that, none of this is bad - but none of it is GOOD either and the stuff that could be good - the biker witches, the slayer who risks his humanity to save humanity, the time manipulating fae - just don’t get any development.

There’s also this ongoing angst because Lizzie has corrupted Dmitri’s “pure griffin blood” by bringing him back from the dead in the first book and infecting him with her essence. She’s super guilty about this and there’s a weird way she kind of forgets that it was to SAVE HIS LIFE not for funsies. And that ends up with the feeling that maybe he’d rather have died than be “corrupted” and how important “blood purity” is which… eeeehhhhhh

Speaking of - 2-3 weeks. Saying “I love you” at this stage is just kind of weird guys. I have no idea why you’re both THIS invested in your relationship.

The ending also annoyed me. After so much frustration waiting for something to happen that I was really excited that it finally did and there’s a big confrontation and it’s shiny and I’m happy and thrilled and ready - and she pulls the biggest random-power-arse-pull I’ve seen outside of an Anita Blake novel. Rando-ridiculously-over-powered-super-power-from-nowhere to the rescue!

Few things ruin a book series’s moments of dramatic tension than knowing the protagonist can pull god powers out of her arse to fit whatever situation

Also, honestly, some of these characters should have died. One in particular. Raise the stakes already!

Diversitywise it was lacking. We had some awesome older women in the biker witches but didn’t develop them. The big bad are succubuses (not even the odd incubus) so there’s all that evil sexy woman gender binary heterosexualness. We have a few bit part POC - but they are just that, bit parts. And calling the Asian instructor the “dragon lady” is a bit of racial coding no-one asked for

This book series is going to be one that torments me. It will torment me because it’s not awful enough for me to seethingly read it and then let loose in the review. Because it isn’t. It’s not BAD, it’s just blah. But nor is it boring enough for me to abandon completely and, worst of all, it has these amazing, awesome nuggets of potential awesome right there  and I think every book you could start excited because if just one of those nuggets pays off...