Thursday, July 28, 2011

Demonglass Leaves Quite A Mark

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Hex Hall, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. Demonglass, however, will remain spoiler-free.

Hex Hall
Book 2
By Rachel Hawkins
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Okay, so last semester at Hex Hall didn't go as well as Sophie had hoped. Between her major crush, Archer trying to kill her, her great-grandmother killing her best frienemy, and finding out she's actually a demon, there's nothing else Sophie can think of that could make her life suck even more. Well, except maybe finding out that she could snap and kill everyone around her without warning. Yeah, that'll just about do it.

The good news is there's a way to remove the danger entirely. The bad news is it would take away her powers and quite possibly probably kill her.

Determined not to be a danger, Sophie travels to England with her father (demon), her best friend (vampire), and her betrothed (warloc—wait, WHAT?!) to go through with the Removal. But once she arrives, she's met with shocking news that puts her plans on hold. With newly-made demons mysteriously appearing, The Eye increasing their attacks against Prodigium, and nearby Archer sightings, who would have thought the Removal would be the least of her worries?

(For an even more tantalizing summary/hook, check out the description from the UK version.)

Before I get started, I've got a quick cover complaint: The cat's still there. Um...why? Didn't we already establish in the last book that there are no cats? Okay, fine, it's cute and sorta points to witches. So maybe a stranger looking at the cover would get clued in that it's about that any reason to keep taunting those who are reading the books? Oh, and don't ask me the significance of the reflection, since I'm pretty certain the only nice dress Sophie ever wears is black. Complaints aside, it's still a gorgeous cover.

If you were hoping to find our main character with even more humor, wit, sarcasm, and overall snark, you should be very pleased. Sophie is as sassy and endearing as ever, perhaps even more-so without vindictive classmates or prying professors around. Her style of snark may not be for everyone, but I found her voice to be a mirror of my own—we just clicked. Jenna, I hate to admit, wore on my nerves a bit. I didn't think she was fleshed out any better than before, and even repeated her past brooding a couple times. Still, she ended up being able to put petty arguments aside eventually so in the end she's still on my good side.

The other characters (new, for the most part) are all equally intriguing. Between new demons Daisy and Nick, a more friendly and talkative Cal, and Sophie's father, I'm having a hard time missing old Hecate. Plus there are a couple surprise reappearances by old friends that are sure to banish any Hex Hall blues. And the major villains of the book, though not revealed until pretty late, are once again given their fair share of fleshing-out. Makes it a bit hard to choose sides sometimes, eh?

If asked who my favorite new-to-Demonglass character was, it would hands down be Sophie's dad. He's every bit as sarcastic as his daughter, though a little more restrained, and he has a British accent to boot! For having started off as a boarding-school-series with Hex Hall, Demonglass defies the norm by placing the main character with a parent. Granted, it's a parent she's never met in person, and staying in a huge, labyrinthine home, so it somewhat harkens back to the isolated teen angle. However, I was extremely impressed with the father/daughter bond that was established. It's something not seen much anymore, and I thoroughly enjoyed it—especially when he confided in her or matched wits in sarcastic duels.

And speaking of sarcastic guys, guess who's back? If the romance in the last book was comparable to Pride and Prejudice, this time it was definitely Romeo and Juliet with just a hint of Twilight. I know love triangles can be annoying sometimes, but this one worked for me. Though the 2nd love interest wasn't established at all in the previous book, there were still clues to its possibility. So while it may seem sudden, it wasn't really random. Then, during this book, while it was present, I never found it obnoxiously so. Sophie never seemed to sway one way or the other, she simply had a choice of head or heart.

Making choices is definitely the prominent theme of this book, but that doesn't mean it's lacking in magic or action. If the main threat in Hex Hall was being caught alone, that's nothing compared to Demonglass because even numbers don't ensure safety when L'Occhio di Dio (aka The Eye) and rampaging demons are involved. Though admittedly the action is heavier toward the end, there's more than enough magical intrigue and conspiratorial mystery to keep the plot moving forward. Truly there's never a dull moment.

Unfortunately, that includes the ending as well. If you thought the cliffhanger from Hex Hall was bad, boy you ain't seen nothing yet! Once again, I'm not saying the book ends in the wrong place. Plot-wise, journey-wise, it's the perfect place to end it. But Sophie's story isn't over—not by a long shot. The end of this book is...well, I'd say it's equivalent to the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Let's just say that Spell Bound had better freaking get here soon!

I'll admit I went in to Demonglass expecting a lot, and it far exceeded my expectations. Overall, I'd say it's a perfect continuation of a magical, fascinating, and hilarious series. They may have left the school, but that doesn't change much except the architecture. I hate to repeat myself, so I'll just say if you liked Hex Hall, you're gonna love its sequel. And if you haven't read Hex Hall...what the heck are you waiting for?!

Approximate Reading Time: 4 hours

Audiobook Review
Read by Cris Dukehart
Length: 8.3 Hours
Listened at 2x Speed

Better than I remember the last one being. I really got into Sophie's head through the narration with Cris's voice. A lot of the snark seemed to work better this time around, which I really enjoyed. After all, it just isn't Sophie without the snark.

Unfortunately I can't say the same about the other character voices. There was enough differentiation to tell them apart from one another, don't worry about that, but I was definitely disappointed in how Sophie's dad was handled. Obviously it shouldn't sound cartoony or anything like that, but I just couldn't get over how pointedly feminine he sounded. Yes, he's British (and one of the very few who speak as such in the book), but putting a British accent on him does not a British Man make. I just wish something a bit deeper had been done for such an important character.

Another slight hitch I had with this audiobook was the constant pausing. The audio didn't break, mind you, but even listening to the whole thing sped up, I couldn't help but notice the incessant pauses at the ends of (and even during) sentences. Not a deal-breaker, but something I did end up noticing as I read along.

Overall, an improvement from what I remember Hex Hall being, but still an average experience as far as audiobooks go. Not ground-breaking, but it'll definitely get you through the book alright.