Amber is not having a good day. First: she’s just found out that her parents are demons, and so is she. Second: they and their friends are going to kill and devour her to absorb her demonic energy as they have been doing with all their previous children over the last century. To escape she goes on the run aided by mysterious driver Milo, who may or may not be the manifestation of an urban legend, and Glen, a talkative and slightly annoying young Irishman doomed by a death curse. Together they travel the Demon Road, a metaphysical highway linking the supernatural underworld that hides in plain sight throughout the dark heart of America.
Derek Landy is best known for the Skulduggery Pleasant series of YA novels, and although Demon Road similarly has a protagonist of a supernaturally-tainted teenage girl trying to hold back her literal dark side, Amber is a world away from the supremely confident Valkyrie Cain. Overweight, introverted and friendless outside of internet message boards, her insecurity is something many girls will be able to relate to, and she remains believable as someone perpetually on the edge of survival despite having a powerful demon form into which she can transform at will.
Although the large absence of Amber's parents from the action relegates them to a somewhat nebulous threat, they nevertheless remain a foreboding one, and since they will be relentless in their pursuit of their daughter it’s only a matter of time before they catch up with her. In their bid to escape, the central trio travel through a number of cursed settings such as a town still haunted by the murder spree of a killer straight out a slasher movie and another populated almost entirely by vampires, to major cities where subterranean bars house all manner of nightmarish monsters and forests wherein stalk unnameable horrors. The settings of each stop are well thought out and distinctly constructed nightmares, the slasher town in particular providing a plausible vision of what such a place might become after visitation from a supernatural killer, along with a suggestion of the kind of woman a Final Girl might end up as thirty years down the line.
Despite Demon Road’s hefty length it’s an easy read, and the road trip structure lends itself to an ever-flowing narrative that always has reason progress to a new location and the wild and weird dangers that await. The book is structured almost like a TV series, the scene setting and barrage of exposition in the early chapters functioning as the pilot, while the adventures in each town would take place over one or two episodes before events build to a climax in the finale, where the story ends on a resolution but is nevertheless left open to continue further.
DEMON ROAD / AUTHOR: DEREK LANDY / PUBLISHER: HARPER COLLINS / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 27TH