At long last, some decent YA paranormal romance comes my way. This week’s book was The First Book of Demons, by Raquel Dove. As you might have guessed, it’s the first book in a series about demons. Full of demons, magic, and awkward teenage sex, this story builds an engaging world and a romance worth cheering for. While the plot could have used a little more foreshadowing and emphasis on the most important moment, The First Book of Demons—while no great work of literature—is engaging enough to keep the reader reading, even when it means not reading the two papers I was assigned for my laboratory course today. Oh, well, it was worth it.
|Digging the fonts. And the fangs.|
We begin meeting the beautiful and clumsy Alexandra, a strong willed heroine with curiously absent parents, who confides everything in her best friend, Sam. When her aunt is brutally murdered, she finds herself without any protection—and the forces that killed her aunt are now after her. The magical dagger she inherited from her aunt proves the key to entering the realm of the demons . . . and falling straight into the arms of the handsome demon prince Balthazar.
Balthazar has some big problems. His father’s just been assassinated and he’s got to ascend to the throne of the Devas. To do this, he’ll have to uncover the traitors in his court, marry a princess . . . and an ancient demon sage tells him he’ll also need a human. Happily, Alex turns up a few short chapters later. The two can’t stand each other at first, but, c’mon, we can all tell the attraction is there. Sure, Balthazar’s a bit of an asshole—hey, a demonic sultan has to have a harem full of concubines, right—but I found this romance to be one worth rooting for. Can Balthazar secure his father’s throne? Will Alex ever loose her virginity? It’s a fun ride, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the dialogue.
And now I’m going to rip a little. The amount of ripping is not proportional to my enjoyment of the book.
My big problem was with the flow of the plot. Storylines appear and disappear. We see Alex’s aunt die, but she’s sad for a while and then the sadness goes away, even though it’s just been a few weeks. Her missing parents are mentioned in the beginning and at the end, but we don’t see Alex really think about them too much. Alex and Balthazar go on a quest to find magical objects . . . and yet the object attained as a result of said adventure has no effect on the climax. There’s a demon king threatening to invade Balthazar’s land, but we don’t see him, any of his people, and the threat doesn’t feel real and immediate.
The story switches between antagonists—usurpers in the palace trying to claim Balthazar’s throne, enemy kingdoms who’ll declare war if Balthazar doesn’t mate with the king’s daughter, a mysterious cult of mysterious mages. Personally, I think it would have been better if it had focused on only one antagonist, with another threat maybe lurking in the background. I get that it’s a series, but every installment in a series—especially the first book—should have a self-contained arc. As it was, I wasn’t sure who the final villain would be.
When the evil plan was revealed, I didn’t have an ‘aha’ moment—a moment where all the clues came together and I realized that this evil conspiracy had been hidden in plain sight all along. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the bad guys weren’t foreshadowed, but Alex doesn’t really have an emotional connection with them. If Alex had known about them and seen their actions throughout the story, they would be much stronger villains. Instead, they only come into direct conflict with the main characters at the end.
High: Originality. I liked the idea of a world where humans were considered magical creatures. Readability. The tone is very good. It feels professional and well-edited. Dialogue. It’s very snappy and witty. Character creation. Balthazar’s a great character, as far as morally ambiguous characters go. Tone. This story feels professionally edited.
Low: Lack of scenery description. Mountains and forests are mentioned in certain places, but we never get a picture painted of what they really look like. Do they look different than those in our world? I feel like I don’t have enough information to visualize these places. Rips on Twilight. I feel like every YA paranormal romance has to include a scene where a clueless human mentions something in Twilight and the savvy supernatural laughs at them—but you can’t make fun of a book where a girl falls in love with a vampire in a book where a girl falls in love with a demon. Use of third person omni POV. This is just a pet peeve. Name similarity. We’ve got an Ashdad, an Alex, an Azira, an Adira, and an Aelek. Ack!
Did I like this story? Yes. Would I read it again? Sure. Would I recommend it to people who like YA paranormal romance? Yes. My rating? As a YA paranormal romance, four and a half stars out of five. As a novel, three and a half stars.
--Liz Ellor, O43
You can download The First Book of Demons here