Wednesday, 24 August 2016

American Monsters


Book Title: American Monsters
Author: Derek Landy
Series: Demon Road #3
Date Started: August 14th 2016
Date Completed: August 23rd 2016
Genres: Horror, Action, Thriller, Adventure
Quality Rating: Four Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Four Star
Final Rating: Four stars

◆ Thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins for this eBook copy for review ◆

So the Demon Road trilogy has been a bit of a rollercoaster for everyone, I think. Personally, I'm happy I read it and it's strengthened my desire to read anything Derek comes up with. It's definitely not perfect and not what a lot of people were expecting, but considering there was so much to live up to after Skulduggery I think it's been a worthwhile ride.

I admit horror isn't really my thing, I'll just read anything Derek writes because I have such faith in him as a storyteller and entertainer. However, even I get dragged into the little horror 'episodes' dotted around the main plotline like in an old 80s TV show. Add some of Derek's trademark wit and humour and you've got yourself a nice little story - and by nice I mean horrific and gory, but it's Derek. I have to admit, the humour is a little harder to get behind when you don't connect with the characters so well, and though I'm not squeamish or a stranger to graphic violence, I did feel the horror bits went a bit far at times.

American Monsters made me realise what's been putting up a bit of a wall between me and these books: the chemistry between Amber and Milo is what in theory should drive this story forward, but in reality it has to be given help by little things that aren't always there. In the first book, I think we all noticed the similarities between Amber and Milo to Skulduggery and Valkyrie. Subconsciously or not, I think Derek took that response from Demon Road and tried to move the protagonists of this trilogy in a slightly different direction (which I think works on the basis of Amber and Milo as individuals), but this inevitably made their relationship less natural and little more strained. And when the structure of a road-trip-meets-overarching-revenge-story stays just like the first book, things just don't work quite as well without that strong partnership holding it up.
Having said that, there are still times when everything works together. Despite me wanting to think I know Derek;s style well, I'm still pleasantly surprised when he comes up with something I wasn't expecting. The climax of American Monsters proved that (overall conclusion not so much, but you know). I really liked how we went back over a lot of Amber and Milo's adventures and exploration from the whole trilogy to really tie everything together - though how I was supposed to remember all the unfamiliar names of the killers I'm not sure. Overall, by the end everything was resolved nicely and in a way that suited the trilogy.

You can always trust Derek to come up with diverse and interesting characters. They'll be developed, they'll have original elements if they're not entirely new, and they'll have a purpose for being in the story. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll like them, though. Don't get me wrong, I don't need to like everyone to get on with a story and one of the strengths of this trilogy is there aren't really any 'good guys', but after having so many of the characters in Skulduggery mean a lot to me, it felt a bit strange to come out of another of Derek's books without feeling attached to anyone.
Amber is kind of my primary example of this; I just haven't been able to get behind her. I really like how she's a flawed protagonist and has this hypocritical but stubborn idea of morals - and really no one else could have led this trilogy. But however much I tried I just couldn't connect with her and her journey, which definitely took away from my enjoyment of this series as a whole.

Looking back over the series, I think Derek had found a balance in terms of structure and pacing that he was happy with by American Monsters. While there isn't as much blending of genres - it's pretty much just horror - we get a good variety between the primary plotline and the more episodic horror segments. Personally, the more old-school horror parts were more enjoyable, mainly because you can just tell how much Derek loves writing them (I could literally feel his excitement off the page, which just makes me smile).

The Demon Road trilogy has been okay, with American Monsters drawing things together in much the same style as the rest of the books. Honestly, Derek had a hard wrap from the start with his pre-made fanbase and the slight difference in genres. These are good books but I can understand that if you aren't a horror fan, or especially attached to individual authors like I am, you might not get along with it quite as well. However, if you like a good creepy, gory, action-packed supernatural horror your search is over.

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