Nandini's Reviews > The Demon's Surrender

The Demon's Surrender by Sarah Rees Brennan
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Jun 15, 2011

it was ok

I love Sarah Rees Brennan's writing almost to a fault. I might be an anomaly among her fans because I never read any of her Harry Potter or other fan fiction - I just know her through her blog, which is awesome. Her short stories are absolutely fantastic, and the first book of the trilogy, The Demon's Lexicon, was nothing short of genius.

But then... The second book of the trilogy, The Demon's Covenant, was so-so and I still held out hope for a great finish since many awesome trilogies suffer from sagging middles.

But The Demon's Surrender simply does not deliver.

This is mainly due to one single giant mistake:


When your POV character is reduced to hiding behind doors all the time evesdropping on other people's conversations and spying on other people's actions instead of doing her own stuff and focusing on her own story? Classic indicator of wrong POV choice.

This is why I was suspicious of the wisdom of a book written from Sin's perspective... and my suspicions turned out to be disappointingly right. These books are the story of the Ryves brothers primarily, and Mae and Jamie secondarily. Where did SIN come from?! She's a likeable character, sure, even an interesting character, but these books aren't about her. She's too far removed from the "core four", her life too separate from theirs, to be an effective POV choice in telling what is essentially THEIR story. There was simply no reason to pick her as our anchor point.

The POV character choice becomes the root cause of major problems with the book, such as -

* The plot is unforgiveably haphazard, to the extent that I have no idea what the "main" plot thread was supposed to be. Is it Sin's struggle to become the Goblin Market leader? Is it the hunt for the black pearl? Is it the Alan-Sin romance, on which the most page-time is spent?? Note how NONE of these main three plot threads have anything to do with Nick or Jamie at all, Mae's involvement is completely off-screen, and Alan's is purely romantic - i.e. completely unrelated to PLOT.

* There weren't any meaningful resolutions to the problems raised in the first two books. Nick finally expressing feelings for his brother falls flat and lacks emotional resonance, because it's all just being overheard by an unconnected party who is a stranger to Nick and doesn't recognise its significance. The whole Nick-Mae romance is shown through the cunning use of repeated evesdropping (UGH), so we miss out on emotional resonance (again, since Sin is a stranger to both people), completeness (since we can't have a random stranger following this new couple around too muhc), and even coherence (Nick apologising to Mae makes little sense when we don't know WHY or HOW he understood he was wrong).

But even apart from POV issues there was a lot of plain old clumsy writing.

* the issue of Goblin Market leadership was utterly undeveloped on the page. We see a lot of grandstanding about how each of the girls want the position, but we only hear second-hand off-screen mentions of exciting test tasks the girls were asked to do, and neither girl is ever seen first-hand doing anything concrete on the page to win the leadership. As a result, the resolution comes out of nowhere - we never see HOW or WHY the girls agreed to the solution, and it seems to have no connection to anything that happened in the book. What was the point??

* the plot thread involving the black pearl devolves into less than nothing. We see neither of the girls do anything at all to actually seek it out (the ONE questing expedition Sin goes on is sidetracked by a romance interlude with Alan), and later it simply goes missing. Turns out in the end that one of the good guys had it all along... but nobody uses it even though it could have saved lives, possibly even saved Alan from the demon possessing him! Why introduce such a (supposedly) powerful artefact in your book if you plan to do exactly nothing with it?

* the issue of Goblin Market inclusiveness suffers from the opposite problem: a great resolution with NO setup. We were never told that the Goblin Market was too cliqueish and xenophobic before! We didn't know the Market had a problem with inclusiveness and political correctness. (Weren't we told the problem was that it was too mercenary and capitalistic?) But suddenly Mae is solving problems nobody even knew they had, and it was quite confusing.

I did like some things: notably the handling/resolution of the secondary demons, the fate of the magicians, and Jamie's story (which came off surprisingly well considering he was hardly ever on the page... for once, seeing an old character from a complete stranger's POV actually worked in the book's favor because Jamie undergoes quite a profound transformation in this book).

But all in all this was quite a disappointing read. I still heartily recommend the first book in this trilogy. It works well as a standalone and it is a truly well-written, tightly plotted, polished piece of work. It is on the strength and promise in The Demon's Lexicon that I'm honestly looking forward to Rees Brennan's next book, Whisper.

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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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ambyr This. This, this, this, this.

You have pretty much saved me the effort of writing a review by saying everything I would have said.

I stayed up until the middle of the night finishing this book, because I just could not figure out why Sin was the viewpoint character, and I was waiting for the big reveal, the moment it would all make sense, the reveal of her connection to the plot.

And it never came.

message 2: by Nandini (last edited Jun 16, 2011 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nandini ambyr wrote: "I just could not figure out why Sin was the viewpoint character, and I was waiting for the big reveal, the moment it would all make sense, the reveal of her connection to the plot. And it never came."

You're so right. I rambled in my review when all the problems in the book can be reduced to just this POV issue.

ambyr Which is sad, because I actually like Sin as a PoV character. Just . . . not of this book.

Trina-Marie Nandini, I totally love your review! I'm reading this book right now and I'm really struggling with it because Sin just does not work as the POV character for this story. I think Alan's POV would have been much more effective, especially because the relationship between the Ryves brothers is such an important part of the story.

Nandini Katrina wrote: "I think Alan's POV would been much more effective..."


Or even Mae's.

If Sarah had really wanted so badly to do a book from Sin's POV, it should have been the second one. That would have given us some kind of grounding in how the Goblin Market works and why it's so important and what problems it has before these issues were resolved in the third book.

And then Mae could have spent this last book dividing her time between Market leadership, Nick, and cunning plans to save both Alan and Jamie. I think it could have worked really well.

ambyr Personally I was leaning towards wanting this book from Jamie's PoV (because then I might have some inkling of understanding of what his plan was, and also because it would have provided an opportunity to humanize the magicians, which is kind of important if the central plot of the book is reintegrating them into society!), but Alan's would have worked, too, or the Mae/Sin switch. Or any number of things!

If Sin and Mae had looked at Merris and said "screw you, this 'compete for dominion of the market' plan is a clear effort on the part of your demon to weaken the market, we're going to work together and co-rule," I think the Sin PoV could have worked--because there would have been reason for Mae to confide in her, instead of Sin having to eavesdrop, and Sin could have built up more empathy for Jamie and the other characters we care about through her close partnership with Mae.

I'd even have been happier with this book really stepping back from the Nick/Alan/Mae/Jamie plotline and focusing on the market, on showing Sin's strengths in leadership and on showing why the old ways of the market do have value. Then the central tension would have been how to preserve that value while still letting the market change. Yes, it would have made for an unsatisfying series closer, but it at least would have made for a more coherent individual book.

Argh. The more I think about this book, the more frustrated I get for what might have been.

Nandini Those are very interesting and, yes, frustrating thoughts! You're right, an inside look at the magicians' world would have been awesome too...

Peytie Great review! You took the words right out of my mouth!

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