Review of The Daemon Parallel by Roy Gill

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Literature Text

"It was over coffee and biscuits that Grandma Ives offered to return Cameron's father from the dead."

This is how Cameron Duffy's great adventure in Edinburgh's parallel world, the Deamon Parallel, begins. An adventure that brings him in contact with mysterious shopkeepers, fairies, bat-like demons that feed on the days of your life, spider demons that like to possess people and take children as servants, reindeer spirits planning on locking Edinburgh into a permanent winter ... you get the idea. And all the while, he's travelling between the Edinburgh in real life and its Daemon Parallel version, looking for the pieces to complete an ancient machine that will help him resurrect his dad, who had died in an accident.

Helping him along the way is his Grandma Ives, a firm but caring old lady who introduces Cameron to the Deamon Parallel and the power to travel between the two worlds that he's inherited from her. But just because she's old doesn't mean that she's totally harmless: she's very intelligent, and can hold her ground when dealing with demons pretty well. Another of Cameron's allies is Morgan, the "best tracker in town", a boy with a cheerful outlook at life whom Cameron soon finds out to be a werewolf. And you may be pleased to know, he's cheerful about that too...except when a certain bat-demon steals the day he learnt how to control his transformation, resulting in the spoiler-ish front cover of the book.

Throughout the adventure, Cameron will have to use all his wit, his negotiating skills, and his ability to travel between the two worlds, in order to gain the pieces he needs to complete the machine, before the winter solstice approaches. And along the way, he will soon realize that not everything is at it seems...

...but then again, when you deal with supernatural creatures, when has anything looked like what it seems?

Still with me? Good. That means I did my job well at grabbing your interest for this book, "The Deamon Parallel", debut novel of Edinburgh based author Roy Gill, whom I have met in person quite a few months ago at Pulp Fiction, a bookshop in Edinburgh.  Now you're probably asking yourself, why am I writing reviews for books all of a sudden?

Well, let's say that I like the Urban Fantasy genre quite a lot (well, I'm more into the the magical girl genre, but hey, that genre could be considered a subset of Urban Fantasy, right?). I've read quite a bit of Urban Fantasy novels, but I've always found that these so-called Urban Fantasy novels a bit disappointing, for a number of reasons (some of which a blogger called Limaayel has neatly summarized over here:…). There have, of course, been a few exceptions to this, such as Neil Gaiman's "American Gods", Charles De Lint's "Moonheart" and "The Blue Girl", and the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. And now I'm proud to add Roy Gill to the list. And here's a few reasons why:

You can probably imagine from that first line that the novel doesn't take itself too seriously. And indeed, that feeling does remain throughout the novel. The humour in it mixes well with the dramatic and serious moments, lightening them up, and the novel doesn't descend into the pits of unnecessary angst like other novels I've read do. And this is always a plus in my books.

But what makes the humour really interesting is that it is often based round the "culture clash" between the denizens of the two sides of Edinburgh. Indeed, some of the best lines in the novel come from that very culture clash. When I went to Roy Gill's presentation, he read out a chapter that really puts this culture clash into great use, when Cameron realizes that a daemon called Mrs. Ferguson is using a human "avatar" to move around, comparing it immediately with online videogames ("On a line of what?" is Grandma Ives' reply). Grandma Ives then asks Cameron if online avatars look like their users, and when Cameron replies that they often do not, Grandma Ives says:

"Then I should say that an online avatar and a demonic avatar are similar, and equally misleading."

This is something that I often find lacking in most Urban Fantasy novels I have read: the "Urban" part, the "real life" part, with all its complexities, which often gets ignored in favour of the pretty "Fantasy" part, and where there is a clear distinction between us muggles and those who live on the other side. In his novel, Roy Gill does a very bold move in reminding us about the real life world. And though there is still some sort of distinction between the two worlds and its denizens, where the muggles are kept ignorant of the other world (clearly shown in Cameron's interactions with his "real life" friend Amy), I always get the feeling that this barrier is thin, with lots of cracks in it through which the two worlds can interact, and that's something I really look out for in Urban Fantasy novels. It's a good step in the right direction, and I'm hoping that, should he ever publish a sequel to the book, Roy takes an even bolder step forward to make the barrier even thinner.

Another think I liked about this book is the fact that the story is rather "personal". There is no He Who Is Completely Evil And Whom Thus Must Not Be Named fighting against the protagonist, there is no Chosen One tasked to defeat him, there's no End of the World scenario should he fail to stop it, and the fate of the entire world doesn't rest of Cameron's shoulders. This is, simply, the story of one "normal" boy who wants to get his equally "normal" dad back, and of all the trials and tribulations he has to face in order to actually get him back. Sure, he has the ability to move between worlds, but it's an advantage that's not unique to him or his family. He's not "special" in any way, but is still on an adventure to do something seemingly impossible. There's no way he can possibly cheat to get what he wants, and that is what makes his adventure more interesting.

I've briefly touched on the "no cosmic evil" bit, but that isn't to say that there isn't any evil in the setting. Indeed, the various demons have some rather nasty aspects to them, and are not afraid to pull their punches in order to harm Cameron. But at the same time, they're not doing evil "for the evulz". Rather, they each have their own needs and desires, and if you look at it from their side point of view, you can kind of see that their reasons are not really evil at all. It's just the circumstances that make it evil in the eyes of the other. This kind of moral complexity, especially within urban fantasy, is not often found, so compliments once again to Roy Gill for actually including it in his novel.

Really, there's nothing really bad that I can say about the novel, and the only real defect I can find, the lack of "strong female characters" helping to progress the plot, is really more of a personal preference of mine, and doesn't detract anyhow from the novel, unless you buy it for that specific purpose. And even then, saying that there is a "lack" of strong female characters doesn't mean they are entirely absent: Grandma Ives and Mrs. Fergurson are two strong female characters, who drive the plot forward with their actions without being dependent on any male character, have some nasty tricks up their sleeves, and do get some of the best lines in the book. (As a bonus, Roy Gill's voice-over of the characters is bang on, and his reading of chapter 5 was pretty much what convinced me that this story was going to be fun to read. ) The problem with these two is that...well, one of them is a daemon. The other is what Alan Rickman would classify as a "very interesting character", and we shall leave it at that.

There are two other female characters in the story that appear for more than one chapter, and those are Cameron's best friend Amy, and Eve, Mrs. Ferguson's servant girl. And the help they provide Cameron is rather marginal, really. Amy suffers from the fact that she's a muggle, and doesn't even get a hint of the fantastic world that Cameron's now involved with. Eve, on the other hand, is bound to serve Mrs. Ferguson, and is thus not free to act that much. And when she does act...well, all I can say is, "spoilers!".

So yeah, if you like urban fantasy stories that don't take themselves too seriously, that have you giggling almost at every chapter, that have interesting characters, a plot that doesn't revolve around saving the world, and all of this set in the capital of Scotland, then I recommend this book hands down, and I would support the author in any way possible for a sequel. So what are you waiting for? Go out and get it!
What’s this? A book review?

Indeed it is, my dear friends. And as for why I decided to write it, well, let’s just say that I mainly wanted to tell Roy Gill himself (he follows me on Twitter, so I can easily share the review to him once posted) that I really enjoyed his debut novel, and that he should really, really consider writing more. Maybe not a direct sequel to this book, but perhaps even one set in the same setting, who knows?

But yeah, his book is really worth a read. If you want to get it, here is a link to Amazon: [link] and to Floris books: [link] Enjoy the read.

Anyway...what do you think of the review in itself? Is it OK? A bit too personal? Too long? Please let me know what you think of it, and I’ll edit it out before showing it to Roy.

Oh, and if you like this review...would you be interested in reading other reviews of books I have liked?
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