Sunday, January 08, 2012

Book Review: The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan

Book: The Demon's Surrender
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Published: 2011
Source: Local Library

Cynthia "Sin" Davies knows how to put on a show. She's been a dancer since childhood. Not just a girl in pretty tights and a tutu, but a dancer whose performances, when done right, call up demons. When done wrong . . . well, let's just say she always makes very sure to do them right.

Now her greatest performance is before her. She has to act the part of the rightful leader of the Goblin Market. She has to pretend that her little sister Lydia is just a normal girl, without a trace of the toxic magical abilities that drive the magicians that would destroy the Goblin Market. Most of all, she has to make everybody believe that she doesn't care what Alan Ryves thinks of her. Because he's made it clear that his opinion is very poor, and she has no cause to doubt that. After all, nobody is as good a performer as Sin Davies. Right?

There are some books that I can read thoughtfully, critically, enjoying myself but from a safe distance. And there are some books that I gulp like chocolate ice cream, squeeing in fangirl joy. (Don't think too literally about that last metaphor. It sounds messy.) It's not until I've digested it and contemplated it that I can write a review that's not just "OMG! OMG! And! The thing! With the person! And the other! Eee! Chocolate ice cream!!"  Clearly, since I'm mentioning it here, The Demon's Surrender falls into the second category.

Okay, so the best part? Hoo boy. The love story. Sarah Rees Brennan knows her love stories. There's angst dripping down the walls. Also sexual tension. Angsty sexual tension. Alan is without a doubt the most fascinating character in the entire series, and devotees have been waiting patiently for the story of this upright, honorable young man who's also a compulsive liar and utter puppetmaster, and his simmering feelings for Sin Davies.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book didn't work so well for me. The tricksy con on the reader that worked so well in The Demon's Lexicon fell flat this time around, and while Sin is a romantic equal for Alan, the rest of her story--her quest for leadership of the Goblin Market, her struggle to care for her two young siblings--felt like stuff that was happening while I was waiting for more scenes between them. Obviously, the whole thing can't be a protracted love story. For one thing, you need some space to ratchet up the tension, and clearly Sin has a life separate from The Boy. (Do you hear me, Bella?) But those storylines felt thin and distant to me.

Still, this was worth the wait, for the love story alone.


Ms. Yingling said...

I do love this series, and it circulates fairly well. I loved the first chapter of the first book when the birds attacked and things exploded. What a great way to get middle graders interested in a book. Dying to see what this author comes up with next!

Melissa said...

The bit about the chocolate ice cream? Spot on.

Beth said...

Wow, you are a huge Alan fan -- that must have made parts of this book pretty hard. I really liked the scenes with Sin's siblings, especially when Alan and/or Nick there as well.

Medea said...

I might try the first in this series. I hear you on characters who have a life away from their love interest, that's healthy.

Bibliovore said...

Beth: Ha, yes, I am *cough* somewhat of an Alan fan. I think it's the faint Calvin O'Keefe vibe he gives off (y'know, aside from the compulsive lying). Weirdly enough, I didn't mind when Bad Things happened to Alan. I went, "Uh-oh," certainly, but I have faith in SRB. Also I'd read the ending. ;)

Medea, definitely try the first book! Nick Ryves is one of the most interesting characters I've ever met.