No lie I really enjoyed reading this. Like loved it. The world was fun and engaging. The flow was perfect and I’m not sure if I should’ve laughed or not, but I did. This story got a lot of smiles out of me. Even though it was well written, (the typos did stand out for me but they were extremely far below my lose a star threshold), and even with a very well crafted world, the characters really suffered in this book. The only character I was genuinely connected to was the antagonist who was all sorts of brilliant. The only other character that came close to that amount of like was Milo but that was still far away.
Most of the story is told from Shawn’s perspective, he isn’t fleshed out really. That and he’s useless. He literally relies on his friends to save him the entire story. And the more I saw his name the more annoyed it made me. There was no growth arc. He was scared and useless from the first page to the end and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gratified with the way his plot-line turned out. As a reader it’s frustrating when you know the author wants you to connect with someone, but they are the biggest source of the book problems and their character doesn’t learn from anything and ends the story in the same position they started. The whole facing your own demons angle was supposed to explain this away but it wasn’t strong enough to do so. The biggest plot character fail here is that being faced with almost certain death combined with him always getting almost killed neither of his friends ever mention it to him. Not once did they tell him that he needs to step up and do something. Under the stress they are receiving tensions and conflicts should arise but this doesn’t seem to happen. And when he said he thought of himself as the leader of the group I found it odd because every bit of information given screamed Jack was the leader of this friend trio.
Jack was also annoying. Always angry and throwing threats at a powerful demon who quite literally can kill him. He held this up through the entire novel. At age fifteen faced with the odds he had of living, at some point you’d think he’d realise he needed to get his head in the game so he could get out alive. He had all the information and most of the answers to the demons and creatures of the realm but just delivered them as information he knew without it really going anywhere plan related. It was the same non-existent learning curve. Anger and insults are who I am. Occasionally he would bite back a retort but it never progressed enough to make me believe he was learning anything. And the whole pride angle of his plot line never really took off. He never showed enough over confidence, or excess bravado beyond that of a typical angry teen to say he had excessive pride. So his facing his demons angle held even less weight because he didn’t even go into that situation with extreme confidence. It was def resignation of fate that he didn’t have a choice and he would rather not have to do it.
Milo stood the best chance of growth. He did things that surprised himself. Made choices that made you believe he had a firm grasp on the situation at hand and was adapting and growing because if it. The only one of the two who was. I actually liked him because he had a very clear character arc and I was interested in how it would pan out but then it also didn’t go anywhere. He was my second favourite character and I’m sure he had some sort of face your demon angle too but it wasn’t obvious enough for me and I didn’t go back to reread it for this review like I usually would to asses how obvious/not obvious it would be for readers.
Rhys was all sorts of amazing. Funny, engaging and he was literally a voice over for most of the story. If someone was going to narrate my life he wins. Honestly I was secretly hoping he had a crush on Milo and this would pan out in the end since they were the only two I liked. His motives, his character and his personality all around made him an extremely fun villain. I was definitely rooting for him the entire book and was not disappointed.
Based on how this story was framed, the fact that there was never any real tension between the three lead characters, that all of them seemed to attack each situation the same way they did the first, with the exception of Milo who had some development, it was hard to really dig into the characters. I never became emotionally invested in them because they didn’t show any signs of drastic change. Jack got a teeny bit close to his final bit of fate but even then it didn’t quite lift of the page. For such a fun entertaining world the characters within it were kinda flat and the lead one was by far the most annoying. If it wasn’t for Rhys and the monsters I doubt I would’ve liked this book.
That being said, on an emotional level, this book wins. It was just bucket loads of fun to read. I enjoyed it. It’s a hard recommend for people who like a bit of action, interesting demons and especially if they like the trope of being forced into a game where either win or die. It delivers on all those counts. Unfortunately it def feels like a character-driven book especially with the face our inner demons subplot and that part, which is a big part of the plot, doesn’t quite deliver in an otherwise very entertaining novel.