Demon Girl, an independently published ebook by Penelope Fletcher, is the first in the Rae Wilder series and, if you’re feeling brave, it’s currently available from ManyBooks.net as a free download.
Originally released in 2010 the ebook is currently being re-edited (praise be to the gods of writing). The new edition, with a shinny new cover and re-titled Glamour, is due for release at the end of March 2012.
This review is in response to the 2010 version.
What it’s about
On a post-apocalyptic earth humans live in heavily fortified compounds, protected from the demons that roam outside their walls by the militaristic Sect.
Rae is different, faster, stronger, quicker to heal, but she doesn’t realise how different until, on one of her forbidden runs outside the Wall, she meets a boy. Breandan is just as strange, if not stranger, than she is and he tells her things, things about herself, that could see her exiled, imprisoned or dead.
What I liked and didn’t like
I liked the cover and it was on the strength of the design that I downloaded the ebook. The cover is simply designed with nice typography and an elegant colour scheme. It doesn’t show the woman’s face, which I think is a smart move as it leaves room for the reader to imagine what she (presumably the protagonist, Rae) looks like.
The premise, a dystopian/post-apocalyptic world where humans hide from ‘demons’, known to the rest of us as fairies, goblins, vampires and shape-shifters, was an interesting idea and I wanted to know more about it. I just didn’t want to have to put up with:
- Rae, whose emotions seemed to fly all over the place.
- The terrible editing, which made the book read like a first draft; and
- Fletcher’s habit of telling instead of showing.
Despite this habit there were some really great descriptions. The ones that struck me occurred in the first third of the book when Rae **spoiler** uncovers her true form, that of a fairy, which has been hidden under the illusion of a human body.
My wings twitched. How the wind feels through your hair, such it felt as a gust[ed] over and under my wings.
I spun and tried to catch the thick length of skin protruding from the base of my spine… It was warm, soft and I stared dumbfounded at the hard, leaf like tip.
They were so effective that I felt the sensations along with Rae. Fletcher seemed to vacillate between these wonderful descriptions and info dumps that just made me want to smack someone (usually Rae) over the head.
I objected to how she called Tomas and Breanden boys when she describes them like men. She robs the characters of authority and sex appeal and makes Rae sounds silly in the process. It’s alright for an 18-year-old girl to be attracted to, and even fall in love with, a man. It may be a little creepy if he’s older than her father but it’s ok.
Two things I would like to point out are:
- If you’re going to write urban fantasy, or any genre for that matter, have your lingo, and your bestiary, straight because using the wrong terms just makes you look like an idiot.
For example fairies and shape-shifters are not demons, neither are goblins, witches or vampires, although you could probably make a case for the later. I can understand why Fletcher wanted to lump all supernatural creatures under one banner but there are more accurate words than ‘demon’, words like sups, preternaturals, monsters and abnormals (thank you Sanctuary).
- In the same vein: when you’re outdoors the ground is called ‘the ground’ not ‘the floor’, unless you are referring to it as ‘the forest floor’, which Fletcher doesn’t.
I feel like the structure is messed up. What is the beginning of the book, Rae’s run in the wilderness outside the Wall, feels like it should be the middle, after her life within the human compound is established. It’s also too short, with a lot of big, important things happening one after the other with no time for the reader to take things in and no chance to become emotionally invested.
My overall opinion
Dear Ms Fletcher, can I edit your next book? Or maybe not. I don’t think I could keep myself from murdering Rae, who starts out a little silly and quickly degenerates into a moron. Seriously, she’s 18 (or is it 19?), brought up in a dangerous world to be a demon killing badass, you’d think she’d be able to stand up for herself a little more rather than be tossed about on the whims of the various males in the story.
Kudos though to Fletcher for publishing her own book and getting it out there to be read by a lot of people.
As a writer I take from this book how it was published and marketed, because it’s been read by a spit-load of people who though enough of it to give it a review. I’m interested in seeing how her next book is received. Will her next book be a paid one? If so how much will it be sold for and will people buy it?
I’m also taking the idea of how a simple but effectively designed cover can lure readers. People do judge books by their covers and a well-designed, elegant cover can hide a lot of sins.
Since learning that the book has been re-edited, and because I’m a sucker for punishment, I’ve decided to take a peak at the re-edited version to see what sort of improvements have been made. I’ll post an update once I’ve read it.