Eric Allen's Reviews > The Demon King

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
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Jul 08, 12

Read in September, 2011

The Demon King

By Cinda Williams Chima

A Review by Eric Allen

Before I begin, I must say that I was not able to finish this book. I only got four chapters in before I couldn't take it anymore. This book fails on every level possible and imaginable. Let me count the ways. No Hook. No plot. No tension. No conflict. No compelling characters or events. No protagonist. No antagonist. No emotion. No color. No life. No story. No desire to read ANY further. No refunds? ...DAMMIT!!! My dislike for the book could be chalked up to the fact that I am a thirty-something adult and this is targeted at boys less than half my age, but I don't think that's it. Normally, when I review books I'll give a short synopsis, and applicable history of the writer or the book itself, and basically tell what I liked, what I didn't like, and what I downright hated about it. I can't do that with this review as I only read four chapters of the book before setting it down, therefore I will be giving you my case as to why no one should ever read it by, instead, using examples from other books, and to be completely fair these books will be of the same genre: YA fantasy.

*disclaimer*I have received several rather heated messages over this review. This review was published in the April issue of the magazine I write for. In short, IT IS A JOKE! Joke or not, I believe that many of the points that I make DO have validity. So please, set aside your indignity if you have any, and simply enjoy what I have to say about this book. I realize that you may think I am worse than Hitler for bad-mouthing a supposed great and popular author, but it's just a book review. Get over it. I am not arrogant enough to believe that everyone cares what I have to say. In fact, I'm rather surprised that anyone does. So, just as I quit reading this lame book, you can quit reading my lame review on it if you wish. And please, if you are offended by what I say, and absolutely have to let me know about it, firstly I invite you to get over yourself and learn to take a joke, because that's what this review is when you get right down to it. If that does not work, at least be civil in attacking me and realize that if you act like a complete ass toward me I will reply in kind. This is a review of the first four chapters only, not of the book in its entirety and should not be taken as such. If you enjoyed the book, that's fine. It is not my intention to insult you, only to educate you and anyone else on why I could never in a billion years consider this a good book. If someone criticizing something you enjoy offends you, the solution is very simple: JUST STOP READING!!!*disclaimer*

Firstly, genders. News flash people, boys and girls are different, not just physically, but in the way that they act, think, feel, and see the world. It is often a mistake of amateur writers that all of the characters of the gender opposite to their own are either horrible stereotypes, or too much like their own gender.

For example, the female characters of male writers will act no different from men, or be weak, weepy, and incapable of doing anything important on their own. The male characters of female writers might be unwashed, emotionless brutes that think of absolutely nothing but fighting and sex, or they will be too clingy and emotional. A character that does not realistically behave like a person of his or her gender does not feel right to the reader. This is a mistake that I would expect from an amateur, but not from someone with six books in publication. It is my opinion that no man can truly understand women in general, and no woman can truly understand men in general (though they sure seem to think they do) This book is proof that at least some women have no earthly clue how men are supposed to act toward one another. A skilled writer will know that characters of the opposite gender are sometimes incomprehensible to them, and be able to at least fake their way through making their performance believable, or cloak them in enough mystery that he or she doesn't have to. Yo Chima, don't you have ANY male friends you can run this crap by before publishing it to give you some feedback on the behavior of your male characters?

The male characters in this book are doubly bad, they act like girls half the time and then they stupidly throw themselves at violence to no point or purpose. Yes ladies, that's right, men don't just beat on each other for no apparent reason. If we're going to pound someone, we don't just do it because we're bored. There's always a reason behind it. That reason may make no sense at all to the female perspective, but just because you don't understand it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. There is more to men than violence and sex, but don't try to overcompensate for your lack of understanding by making them overly emotional on top of it. It turns out as a horribly, conflicting mess. And BY THE WAY... what in the hell is up with all of the blatant homo-erotic tension between Han and Dancer? News flash, Cinda, NO. Just NO. You're doing it wrong! Take my word for it. Shame on you!

If you have no earthly clue how men are supposed to act, DON'T MAKE YOUR "PROTAGONIST" (and I use that term VERY loosely here, hence the quotation marks) A MAN YOU DUMBASS!!! Or at least explain why your characters are too much like the opposite gender. And also realize that even effeminate men are still men, and tomboys are still women. They still think, act and see the world as their own gender would. We are all still what we are, despite any outward facade.

Oh, but Eric, you say, give her a break, male writers have been messing up their female characters for centuries and I don't see you bitching about that. I do bitch about it actually, as is quite apparent in my review of The Omen Machine.

Stereotyped characters, when done well, can work for a story, but when they're bland, boring, and generally unlikable it just makes the whole thing fall apart. Stereotypes are often used in YA books to get children to identify with the characters more easily. In my opinion children are smarter than adults give them credit for and can follow complex character development without the use of stereotyping, but then again, I was reading and loving the Wheel of Time at eleven. An example of stereotypes done well is the Harry Potter series. You've got the outcast, the bumbling sidekick, and the know-it-all bookworm. These are stereotypes that most kids can relate to. They are, or know someone that is much like one of these characters. And the way that J.K. Rowling does it gives them all life and depth, giving them realistic personalities and character, giving you reasons for why they are the stereotypes that they are, and why you should care about them. You get to see them learn and grow out of their stereotypes into stronger, more rounded characters as the series progresses. In The Demon King, however, the characters are basically just cardboard cutouts with whatever their stereotype is written where their faces should be. Every one of them is uninteresting. Even the supposed protagonist fades almost completely into the background because he has no personality at all except for his stereotype. It makes for a rather dull and boring reading experience.

The plot and pacing of this book are atrocious. When you have a book this short, SOMETHING better damn well happen by the time you reach chapter four! But nothing did. Here's a rundown of everything that happens in the first four chapters. Bland character one and bland character two whine about foraging, they decide to go hunting, they meet bland characters three, four and five. They have a bland, tensionless spat over Macguffin number one. meanwhile bland character six waits for bland character three and company to return. Then bland character seven shows up for no particular reason and does basically nothing but add boring, soulless dialogue to an already colorless world. When writing a book you have to start with something big, or something exciting, or something mysterious. You have to give the reader something of interest to make them want to continue. This is called The Hook. You have to give the reader a sense of excitement, or a question that they truly want to see answered or they're not going to care. There was no hook in this book. There was nothing exciting about this beginning, nor was there anything mysterious. No questions to which a reader can desire to find answers to were given at all. As nothing happened at the beginning, a reader can only assume that this book is about nothing.

Here's some examples of how a fantasy story for young adults SHOULD begin. Every one of them is of the YA Fantasy genre, and each of these books is generally the same length as The Demon King.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by chapter four Harry has had his parents murdered, been raised by people who hate and oppress him, and has discovered that he is a wizard and been accepted to Hogwarts to learn magic. His character and plight have been well introduced by this time, and his hopes and dreams are very clear in the reader's mind. Though his plight is played for comedic purposes, we still FEEL that it IS plight. We've gotten a look at the wizarding world and the tenacity of the owls that deliver their mail. By this time, we know what the book is about, and we know what makes the main character tick.

In Jonathan Stroud's Barimaeus Trilogy, book 1: The Amulet of Samarkand, by chapter four Nathaniel has summoned the demon Bartimaeus and bound him to his will, and Bartimaeus has stolen the Amulet of Samarkand for him. By this time we've been witness to quite a bit of Bartimaeus' sarcasm and wit, and quite a bit of humor to make him rather lovable and we feel his plight as a slave to his human master. Demons and Magic, and a lot of how the world works have been explained to us by this time through the comical rantings of Bartimaeus.

In Garth Nix's Abhorsen Trilogy, book 1: Sabriel, by chapter four Abhorsen has brought a dead infant back to life, Sabriel does the same for a dead bunny. Sabriel is contacted by a being from Death that gives her her father's sword and necromancer's bells, giving her a message that he is trapped by one of the Greater Dead. Sabriel leaves her school to head from the world of technology to the world of magic where she is from to rescue him. We are are shown how Death and Necromacy work. We are shown the wall that keeps the two worlds apart from one another, and we discover that many things are going horribly wrong on the other side of the wall. We've gotten to know Sabriel by this time. We know her reluctance and fear, but also her determination to save her father and prove herself his worthy heir.

In John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series, book 1: the Ruins of Gorlan we've already seen the Dark Lord plotting vengeance and raising an army of nightmare creatures. We've been introduced to the characters and their likes and animosities toward one another. We've been given the mysterious Ranger Halt and his slip of paper given to the Lord while he decides Will's future profession. We can feel Will's burning shame at being turned down for battle school, the only thing he's ever wanted in life, because of his size, and his curiosity over what the mysterious Halt might have to say about him, and what is written on the paper. We've already seen that he is not afraid to defend himself against people twice his size, and that he is naturally good at climbing and sneaking. We want to know why Halt seems to have an interest in him, and what his fate might be after being denied every profession he hoped for.

In Brian Jacques' Redwall by chapter 4 (which, by the way is only ten pages into the book) You've been introduced to the villain, the protagonist, the love interest and the mentor. You've gotten to know that the orphaned Matthias does not fit in amongst the others at the abbey. He yearns for adventure and something more than the quiet life of devotion to others that he has been raised to. There is a build up with a festival planned and the villain setting his sights on Redwall Abbey. You just KNOW that these two events are going to coincide and go horribly wrong, and you can feel anticipation building with each page that you turn. And might I remind you that all of this was set up in only TEN PAGES! TEN PAGES and Redwall is already a more compelling, and better set up story than The Demon King, and it is a book about MICE!!!

By the time that you get four chapters into a young adult book you should know the setting, the characters, and have a pretty good idea about what is in store for them. You should be thoroughly invested in the plot, and actually WANT to continue in it. SOMETHING interesting SHOULD have happened, because young people typically tend to lose interest quite quickly if you don't grab them early with something they care about. You should hopefully be connecting with the people you're reading about, perhaps thinking that they seem a bit like you. You should be excited to discover what happens next. The plot should actually be going somewhere by this time instead of puttering around, running in circles chasing its own tail to no point or purpose.

Now, let's play a little game I like to call "Who is the Protagonist". In a work of fiction the Protagonist is the central figure around whom the events of the story revolve, and with whom the reader is supposed to identify. The protagonist will learn and grow, and through a great deal of turmoil and such will rise above his or her weaknesses in the end to defeat the antagonist (i.e. bad guy). First of all, to have a protagonist you really kind of need an antagonist, and, you know, some sort of conflict between them. Well, we might as well stop playing Who is the Protagonist right now, because neither of those things seem to exist within The Demon King. BUUUT let's just pretend that they do for a second.

First of all we've got Han... I think... *shrug* He fades into the background, is bland, boring, COMPLETELY unlikable in ANY way shape or form, and generally fails completely at everything we've seen him do by chapter four. He has no reason to do anything, he has no conflict, he has no nemesis, and I don't know about you, but I sure as hell can't identify with someone this bland and pointless. Next we have Dancer. He's hot-headed... I guess... and... well... Yeah, that's about it. His name might as well have been Hotheaded Stereotype, why bother even naming him? No conflict here either, though you KNOW he's really spoiling to jump Han's bones, because, as we all know, that's TOTALLY what men do when there are no women around, right Cinda? I guess he's not it either. Bird... Nope, can't be her, she just randomly appears to sow false tension and spout boring, soulless dialog that really has nothing to do with anything. Princess I forget how to spell her name correctly Raisa was it? Well, no, she seems more a love interest not essential to plot, and who can identify with a spoiled princess who doesn't want to be a princess anyway? That goes completely against what the stereotypical tween girl wants, right? By the way Cinda, that was an example of how to correctly employ irony in your writing, you might want to take note of it. Annoying douche #1 perhaps? I forget his name, because, well, he's a pretty forgettable character. You know, I think we may have a winner here... if not for the fact that he's obviously being set up as an antagonist... But, by the time this book hits chapter four he is the one and only character in the entire book that has shown even a shred of humanity and ambition, and he's the only character I can even come close to identifying with. And he's not a very interesting character either, he's just the ONLY character. The others are so thin and lifeless that they can't even be considered characters at all. He's a young nobleman chafing under his father's strictures and wanting very desperately to prove that he's worthy of being his father's son by stealing magical artifacts to prove he knows how to use them. I can identify with that. Can you? I know what it's like to feel as though I'll never live up to my parents' examples.

Now, there is something HORRIBLY WRONG when your ANTAGONIST (and I use that term VERY loosely here, as he is not clearly introduced as the antagonist in this story or not... NO ONE IS!!!) is the ONLY character in the entire book a reader can identify with at a point in said book where you should already know your characters reasonably well. You should know, by this time, generally what they want out of life, and why you should care about/hate them. Look back on my examples. In every one of those series by the time you got to chapter 4 you knew without a doubt who your protagonist was, and why you should care about them. You knew their hopes and their dreams. You knew what kind of person they were. You, perhaps, felt sorry for them because of their horrible lives, or felt a lot like them, knowing what it's like to be downtrodden, or shipped away to school away from everything you know and love, or feel inferior to your parents and desperately want to prove your worth, or be turned down for something important to you because of a physical deficiency. You identify with them. They are clearly the hero of the story and you want to see how they overcome the trials in their lives. Where was all of that in The Demon King? Who is the Protagonist? Who is this book about? Who am I supposed to care about? Why am I supposed to care about them? Where is the conflict? Who are these people the author keeps talking about and why do I care? Is something supposed to be happening? Did I miss something? Why does she keep talking about Han when Annoying Douche #1 is clearly the more compelling character? I don't get it. What's going on?

In conclusion, The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima is a horrible book that I could not even finish. The characters are ridiculously bland, and she does not seem to understand men well enough to write believable male characters. There is no plot of which to speak. Nothing happens in the first four chapters that will even come close to grabbing you. At a point in the story where you should have a pretty good idea who the characters are, and why you should care about them, she still hadn't even really introduced them to us properly. This book could be used in writing classes as an example of exactly how NOT to begin a story. I can sum this book up for you in one word. Bland.

It is my opinion that a Young Adult novel should be something that not only children but adults should enjoy as well. All of the series I cited as being better than this one, save Redwall, were books that I read as an adult and loved. Sabriel was even targeted at teenaged GIRLS and I still loved it. I doubt that my being double the target age of this book was what made it so hard for me to read it. In fact, I find it hard to believe that a boy half my age would not be incredibly bored to death by it, or even make it as far as I did. The characters are bland, the world is bland, nothing happens, there's no catch to get you interested in anything. If I could give this book negative stars, I would. It's just plain BLAND!

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BLAND!!!

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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Eric (last edited Jul 16, 2014 09:10AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Eric Allen Haven't checked up on comments here for quite a while. So much hostility... I deleted all of the comments, good and bad alike, and I'm just going to give a general response that addresses some of the concerns people brought up rather than replying to everyone individually.

It's not that this book started out slow. I can deal with slow. If there's an interesting mystery that is introduced, or of there are characters that I like. Or even if an exciting event completely unrelated to the plot happens to start things off. Sure, whatever. I can deal with slow if there is a promise that it will eventually pick up. This book had nothing to indicate that it ever would, and I, frankly, have little patience with things that can't give me even a single likeable character to follow. All of the characters were bland, boring and annoying. I couldn't connect with any of them. I actively hated many of them. And there was absolutely nothing else plotwise to draw me in. If a book can't interest me in any way shape or form within four chapters, I put it down and never look back.

The reason I wrote this review was not to trash the book. I realize that it does have quite a few fans. It was an April Fool's joke. I was asked by the magazine that publishes my book reviews to write something completely out of character for me that they could put in front of my REAL column for the month and make people scratch their heads and think I'd gone crazy. I chose this book because I had just attempted and failed to read it, and because there were a lot of points that tied in with another piece I was working on at the time for a class I was teaching to some of my church congregation's youths about writing. And if you've ever tried to teach a class of preteens to do something, you know you've got to make it entertaining and relatable to them or they're just going to ignore you and talk amongst themselves. I combined the two into a very much over the top explosion about a book I couldn't get into that was also a lesson on some writing techniques. My publisher loved it and published it at the front of my real reviews for the month as a joke. It may not seem a funny joke to you, but then, you're not one of my regular readers so the joke wasn't really meant for you. I made the mistake in thinking that other people would think it was funny as well, and posted it here.

I'm not going to take it down, because I think it's still a pretty good piece of writing, silliness and hypocrisy and all. It's me taking on a persona rather than being myself and writing as I normally would. And to me that was a very fun thing to do.

I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I just don't want to read any more of this book. And I'm not going to. Like I said, if a book can't interest me in any way within four chapters, I'm not going to bother reading any further. There's plenty of other books out there that CAN interest me within four chapters, so why would I waste my time on one that can't? That's just how I roll. I don't really care if the book gets better later, because the lack of anything to grab my attention earlier was so objectionable that it killed any and all desire I ever would have had to continue. I typically tend to stay away from authors whose books I am unable to finish, because oftentimes the rest of their works are similar. A good rule of thumb for me is that if I didn't like it the first time around, I'm probably not going to like it the second, or the third, and so on.

In my opinion a young adult book should be just as engaging and entertaining as a book written for adults. I feel that it's insulting for authors to produce crap and wave it away as "oh, it's just for kids, it doesn't matter." I enjoy and have written positive reviews for quite a few young adult books. But not this one, because it literally had not one single thing to interest me in the beginning. Sorry, fans of this book, but I just don't see it, and I'm not planning on giving it a second chance anytime soon... or ever.

I am sorry if I offended anyone by posting this mock review, but please, lighten up a little. It was meant in good fun, not to insult or belittle you for liking a book that I was unable to really get into. If you enjoyed the book, please continue to do so. I mean no offense to anyone that does. If you are offended, please don't be. This is not a "real" review. It's a joke. It wasn't meant to be taken seriously at all. If you can't laugh at stupidity, the alternative is anger, and I prefer laughter to shouting any day.

I have a rule. If a book cannot interest me in any way within four chapters, it gets kicked to the curb and I never look back. I go find another book that CAN interest me in four chapters. If a book gets hit with the four chapter rule it, by default, gets a one star rating. If you don't agree with me, that's fine. Enjoy what you enjoy. But also be aware that not everyone is going to enjoy it as much as you do.


Eliakim you are a complete and total idiot get thro the first couple of chapters and let the book open finish the book and don't be quick to judge.


message 3: by Joann (new) - added it

Joann Bogart i agree with eliakim u are a idiot that book was great u just have to power though the first few chapters


Audrey Hammer The first few chapters didn't really grip me, but I've come to like it the farther I've gotten. I also loved The Amulet of Samarkand.


message 5: by Bethany (last edited Sep 21, 2014 12:54PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bethany Good grief. Eric is entitled to his opinion, and he makes some good points. There's no reason to jump on him for his review. And not everyone likes the same book--that doesn't necessarily make the haters stupid. That just makes people unique.


message 6: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Yoon I definitely agree that the book was slow at first, but it did get better as it went. It is definitely not my all time favorite book, but it still had many different positive qualities such as the character development. Han definitely changes throughout the book, and Raisa has to grow up. The book was over 500 pages long, and the two main characters didn't even meet until halfway through the book which made it very slow in the beginning, but once it got started it was brilliant.


Ashley Bradshaw I agree that it started out slow but I generally try to get at least half way before I decide whether or not to hate a book, four chapters is really pathetic. Especially when u write a review that lengthy. I read the entire series and by the last book I loved them. You didn't give it a chance. Sometimes character development can be boring but it's necessary. anyways, I read your review with an open mind until I saw Harry potter and the philosophers stone. What the heck, I know auto correct sucks some times but it's the sorcerers stone.

Also I love the rangers apprentice books, Assassins apprentice book was really good. The two aren't really anything alike except for the time period.


Olyaa La wow that was fast to give up. This series is amazing. Maybe you should read more then 4 chapters because that is nothing.


message 9: by Ethan (new)

Ethan Teague You really can't decide anything after reading four chapters of a book you're being silly.


Allison I actually 100% agree with you. I thought I was crazy for not being hooked by this book - especially since it has such high ratings and elicits such passionate response. I believe that you Can determine whether a book is for you by only reading four chapters and for me, this one wasn't it either.


message 11: by Sai (new)

Sai Madhu This book is beyond bad, main characters are beyond stupid, hawn can't seem to know why south side kids got killed or that he was being presued even after his talk with those 3 demons and the blind guy. How can u forget that u named ur self as south kids lord to bayers when he took that necklace of him.


message 12: by Ayah (new) - added it

Ayah I haven't read this book yet so I wanted to see the reviews and this one was the first one I saw with a one star rating. I have no issues with people expressing their opinion about whether they liked or disliked a book. What I do have a problem with is sexism and transphobia.

"Firstly, genders. News flash people, boys and girls are different, not just physically, but in the way that they act, think, feel, and see the world. It is often a mistake of amateur writers that all of the characters of the gender opposite to their own are either horrible stereotypes, or too much like their own gender."

Gender is not just male and female! Like sexuality, gender it is a spectrum. You can't just assign attributes to a person based on their gender. Not all boys act and think alike, same with girls. The only reason why people believe that boys and girls are so different is because of gender roles, which are oppressive and sexist.


Indigo Ayah wrote: "I haven't read this book yet so I wanted to see the reviews and this one was the first one I saw with a one star rating. I have no issues with people expressing their opinion about whether they lik..."

I whole-heartedly agree with you Ayah. It was one of the things that bugged me as well in this review and I've been told that I act and think/respond in a lot of ways like a man despite the fact *heavy irony in voice* that I was born female and raised as a girl. Brain chemistry tends to win out and they've found evidence that brain connections and regions tend to be more conforming to what gender you feel to be regardless of your actual physical sex and chromosomes which was a great discovery that they found out about a couple years back. :) Take that sexists and transphobists!


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