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The Demon and the City, Liz Williams

The Demon and the City, Liz Williams published on 1 Comment on The Demon and the City, Liz Williams

I think I only post about books I’m annoyed at. This is why there was no post for the first book, but there is for this one.

The book has some structural problems, basically – the pacing is very jerky, and I think Williams kind of lost her balance a little before the halfway point, because all of a sudden things that needed build-up started happening without the build-up. Spoilery examples:

– Jhai Tserai, the efficient, manipulative, secretly-a-demon businesswoman who is planning to destroy the world, within about thirty pages develops kind of a crush on Zhu Irzh, decides to let him out of jail despite the danger he presents to her plans, loses her virginity to him, and reveals her secret identity and nefarious schemes to him. This happens kinda fast. Before the halfway point of the book. I think this could work, but only if it were slowed down a lot.

(Relatedly, I’m not actually going to complain about Robin Yuan giving up on her long-time girlfriend and falling in love with someone else in less than twenty-four hours, because I can buy her as the sort of character who does that. I don’t buy it with Jhai.)

– Paravang Roche, a sleazy but pragmatic feng shui practitioner whose life Zhu Irzh accidentally ruined because Zhu Irzh is kind of careless, works himself into an uncharacteristic rage, risks everything for revenge, regrets it when things start going wrong and finally gives in to his (dead) mother’s attempts to get him to marry a (dead) woman, and decides to help Zhu Irzh save the world. This takes a little longer page-wise, but because Roche’s story is told almost entirely in short interlude chapters that don’t intersect with the rest of the novel, it still all seems extremely abrupt.

– The world starts to end, and then keeps ending for about the second half of the book without managing to kill anybody for most of it, which makes it seem somewhat less dangerous than it should.

All this stuff could have been fixed if the end of the world had been compressed a little and the build-up to it lengthened.

Also – and this is what really annoyed me – here we have a book that starts out with two lesbian POV characters, Robin and Deveth, and a bisexual one, Jhai. By the end of the book Jhai and Robin have settled down with nice men, and Deveth is dead, evil, transformed into a sort of dog-ghost thing, and has told her ex-girlfriend Robin a lot of stuff like “You are mine to destroy.” Their relationship is revealed to have been extremely abusive and nasty, and Robin refers to getting involved in her as a sin that she needs to atone for.

Also, both Jhai and Deveth, the smart powerful manipulative women, literally turn into animals at the end of the book, with Deveth stalking and threatening Robin and “smelling of rotted meat” and Jhai snarling and lashing out at things ineffectually. Robin, who also does horrible things, but does them passively because she’s scared, and lets guys rescue her, remains human.

I’m sure this wasn’t intentional on Williams’ part, but it’s still fucking there.

I was really looking forward to this book, and now it’s just left me in a bad mood.

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