November 15, 2018
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Solid 4 stars.
(if you're not used to my reviews, please understand I am a critic. I criticize everything. It doesn't mean the book wasn't great or even that I didn't enjoy the hell out of it)
First, let's discuss the audiobook narrator.
Honestly, he was pretty lackluster. At first blush, he reminded me a lot of Kirby Heyborne (who is amazing!), but as the book went, I saw more and more how little variation he had in his voices. He did very well with tempo and he has a perfectly listenable voice, but the lack of distinct character voices was really distracting (the voices of 9 and 10 year-old girls was basically identical to older women and younger boys, and most of the men used an identical voice).
Okay, story time.
First, you must understand what you're getting into. This is a big story with a lot of characters and a lot of things going on.
Now, as I typically do, I have some criticisms and some things I really enjoyed.
As with other of EHV's books that I've read, the narrative is split between two time periods (much like the main book this one is typically compared to, Stephen King's "It"), so it can get a little confusing at times.
Thankfully, this book is told entirely in third person (unlike "Errant Gods"), which only added to my enjoyment.
However, for a rather large chunk of the future narrative, there were two characters that I thought were one character, which only added to my confusion.
I actually do enjoy the "dual narrative" of this book (and others I've read), as both narratives are important parts of the story and present some distinctly different facets to the characters and main conflict.
But (yes, you likely knew there was a but coming), as with "It" and others which use this device, while I understand why the past and future narratives are switched throughout the story (mainly, there are major reveals in the earlier timeline which might reduce the tension and suspense of the earlier parts of the future timeline if they were already known), I feel like it would make for a more enjoyable and less confusing story if we saw the whole early narrative first, then moved to the future narrative.
Also, minor gripe, unlike in "It," the flashes back to the earlier narrative (or jumps to the future one, if you prefer), have no bearing or relevance on or to the other narrative, so the shifts come off feeling a bit jarring and arbitrary.
In general, I liked the characters and the character development done with them, there just wasn't enough of it for me.
I liked Drew, and I kept waiting for an explanation of what he is/does and how/why. And while there was an eventual explanation, it just didn't seem like enough. I kept thinking there was more to it that we were going to see but never did.
I also liked Benny, but honestly I'm still confused about what exactly happened to him and how he ended up where/what he did.
My biggest character complaint, honestly, is Tobey.
You might consider this a spoiler (though I don't) so please don't read the next 2 paragraphs if you don't want to see it.
We know a bit about his family but literally almost nothing about him. Which wouldn't have been a problem is he hadn't come back into the story after his disappearance in the beginning. I mean, since he comes back later, I feel like we should have had some empathy (or at least sympathy) for his fate, but since we're literally introduced to him 5 minutes before he vanishes, there really isn't any.
Honestly, I really feel this book should have either been a LOT longer (yes, I'm thinking of "It" again here, which was more than 3x the length of Demon King), or it should have been a series. I think 2 books about the childhood part (maybe one about the Owen side of things and one about the King), and 2 or 3 about the adult story (first on Drew, culminating with the revelation that the demons are real, then a book on the two cops and the tortured daughter, then use the Mike & Shannon story to bring everything together for an epic finale. And yes, I realize that would require a major overhaul of the story) to really do justice to the concept.
As it was (and I suppose I have this complaint a lot), with such a high concept, I felt like the ending should have had a really epic feel, and it was kind of a letdown. So often, we have these amazing, deep stories that feel so epic, and then the climax takes 5 minutes and we're done. And I can't help feeling like someone just completely dropped the ball.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting a Wheel of Time level climax (you know, an entire 400k+ word book that is literally all devoted to the final battle), but something a little more epic would have been better.
And on that note, I have to say I was a little disappointed at the lack of resolution to the earlier narrative.
All that said, though, I did enjoy the book. There are serveral pretty blatant hat tips to Stephen King (and, if I'm not mistaken, Dan Wells) that add some flavor without feeling too hokey, and I appreciate that there were a few twists toward the end that I did not see coming (at all!).
Bravo, Mr Vick.
I can't wait for the next one to release in audio.