Review: Demonstorm

Posted: May 23, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: James Barclay, Heroic Fantasy

How do you end a series? We’re sure this is a question every author asks at some point during a career. We’ve read quite a few series from start to finish, and have decided that writing that satisfying ending and conclusion must be the hardest thing to do. Why? We chalk it up to expectations. This can be crippling to the final book in a series, especially when the series has been SO good.

You all know what fans we are of James Barclay‘s work. From the moment we opened DAWNTHIEF, we were hooked. He improved as a writer and storyteller from novel to novel, and the stories got progressively more awesome. Simply put, he’s one of our favorite authors. Period. DEMONSTORM (Amazon) marks the “end” of the Raven. We realize that there is still another novel, but keep in mind that RAVENSOUL is more of a bonus tale. DEMONSTORM is the true end. With as much as we enjoy Barclay’s work, we were worried that the final novel wouldn’t live up to our unfairly high expectations.

OK, we’ve led you on enough. Plus you probably already read the tag we attached to this review which reads “Books We Love”. It really is as simple as that. We loved this book. We loved it more than any of the previous Raven novels.

What made DEMONSTORM so satisfying and awesome? The same thing that captured us from the very beginning of DAWNTHIEF: the characters. The truth of the matter is that a series cannot survive the test of time and the readers’ patience if the characters don’t grab you. Through the Raven novels we have become ridiculously attached to the characters of the world. We have been through so much with them that we identify with them. This novel is really the Raven’s last ride, and the immediacy of that statement is felt right from the beginning of the novel.

Balaia is screwed. Yeah, that’s the short version of the whole novel. Xetesk, in their greed and arrogance, opened a rift between the world of Balaia and the Demon dimension making that whole dragon problem from NOONSHADE seem like Hello Kitty’s Island Adventure. Demons flood Balaia and essentially enslave everyone. It’s a grim beginning to a grim tale. There isn’t a lot of humor in this novel because there isn’t room for it. Throughout it all, the Raven have but themselves into exile. They are hunted by humans. Coveted by demons. They feel betrayed by the world they have saved over and over again.

What made DEMONSTORM so satisfying and awesome? The same thing that captured us from the very beginning of DAWNTHIEF: the characters.

And yet they go back to save it again. It’s who they are.

In most novels, the final third of the book is the climax. In DEMONSTORM, the entire novel is the climax. It is one, big moving war. And in war, there are casualties. Barclay has never been shy about killing off characters. This book is no different. The carnage in DEMONSTORM is steep. The cost of fighting these demons is shocking. Our biggest worry, honestly, was that Barclay would take the easy way out. Cheat. Just so you know, he didn’t. We cried.

It is our duty to tell you of any shortcomings. The only ones of note were the sudden time jump early in the novel–it just kinda happened with no real warning. A bit confusing. The only other bit was during the final confrontation. We wish it had been a bit more from Erienne’s PoV. Personally we feel it would have made the already insanely awesome ending absolutely perfect. But that’s just an opinion, and none of this is actually harmful to the immense enjoyment of the novel.

Us readers here in the US have been spoiled. Look how quickly we have been getting Barclay’s novels. A decade’s worth of material has been brought to us in two years. We aren’t quite sure what else we can tell you other than, “Go get his books NOW!”

DEMONSTORM is an emotional and thrilling ending to the Raven. It will make you laugh a little, and maybe even cry a lot. It is Barclay’s best Raven novel by far, and one of our favorite books of the year.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Some, and strong when it gets used
  • Violence: Please. There is more violence in this novel than perhaps his last two or three combined.
  • Sex: Mentioned, but not shown at all


  • tomlloyd says:

    So is that the benchmark against which the rest of us will be judged?

    • @ Tom – You know, I tend to judge the endings based more on the series they are ending rather than some other series. Apples vs Oranges and all that.

      The only thing I think I can really compare is the FEELING I get once the series is over. How satisfied and blown away am I? Erikson's Crippled God had a terrific ending. As did Demonstorm. As did Brandon Sanderson's Hero of Ages.

      For your forthcoming Dusk Watchman, I will likely compare it only to the other books in the awesome series. Now, if you suddenly turn Isak into a girl (heh), I will hate you forever and send zombie assassins after you.

      Now get crackin! It is absolutely killing me not knowing how your series ends!

      • tomlloyd says:

        Fair nuff! Aside from Crippled God, which we share opinions on, which book/series most gave you that feeling of being blown away at the end?

        DW is on the way, don't worry, 195k words down so the only bits left are chopping people up followed by tea and medals.

        • Honestly I felt that Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series had a pretty sweet ending. Demonstorm works very nicely (man, I was tearing up) for James' series. I am currently working through them, but people I trust 100% have said Daniel Abraham's Long Price series is unreal.

          Honestly it's tough to point at a series that is actually done. Seems like most of my personal favs are in process. They other interesting thing is that even when an author finishes a series, they seem to be leaving the end WIDE open. R Scott Bakker is a good example of this. His Prince of Nothing Series is awesome, but the end is pretty vague and leaves it wide open for more books (which are seriously bleh). Adrian Tchaikovsky's series has been all sorts of fun, and had a fantastic soft ending in book 4…but book 7 is coming out soon on your side of the pond. Look at Joe Abercrombie. We discussed how much I like his stuff, but the First Law Trilogy doesn't exactly have a hard End.

          Kinda makes me wonder. Authors seem to be making their endings more and more “soft” these days to leave room for sequels. Kinda makes me wonder if it is actually hurting the genre a tad.

          And, you know, if you need a test reader for DW I know a certain book reviewer who could make time. Just saying.

          • tomlloyd says:

            Well that's interesting, I enjoyed the first Mistborn but for some reason reading the blurb for the next left me a bit meh for pushing on through. I keep meaning to try the Long Price but never actually got around to buying it. Looks like it would be worth it though!

            As for sequels, from a career point of view I can see the sense if people are enjoying what you're doing. Have always said I'd move onto something else afterwards and planned a new setting already, it'll be interesting to see if Gollancz ask for a follow-up/stand-alone once I've delivered.

            Am pretty wedded to the idea of being able to say to readers 'here's a complete product for you, please read it…' so it'll be interesting to see whether that comes across in the writing. There's always the reluctance of leaving old friends behind, or at least the ones who have any limbs left.

            Am thinking end of July for looking for test readers, so you might get an email yes!

          • I totally see the allure of leaving things kinda open, and I get why people do it. I mean, even Erikson's last wasn't exactly a closed door. It's why it really becomes a question of comparing the novel to the series it is in. Does a book close off the series it represents? Does it leave the reader feeling satisfied?

            With your novels specifically (and really this applied to James' novels too), you really haven't even come close to exploring the whole world. Like how James has his Elves novels, you could easily set another story in a completely different area of your world. I think readers would welcome it since you keep the focus of the Twilight Reign on a small-ish area. It would be slightly familiar, but separated enough to feel like a distinct project. Yeah…James' Raven series vs his Elves series is a good comparison of that.

            End of July huh? I'll be patiently hitting the refresh button on my email from now until then…every 10 minutes.

          • tomlloyd says:

            My only (well, maybe main) concern with a follow-up novel is the fact that, after the main series where in most cases nations have fallen and gods have died or been overthrown, how do you avoid the follow-up seeming insignificant in comparison.

            A new world, you've got a fresh start, but the same world and you either have to match the scale or you have a basic plot that might only cover half a novel's plot from the series. Whether or not you're working more on the characters, I can't help feeling just some power struggle within a city or whatever looks a bit minor when you've just watched the empire next door be torn apart by demons.

          • -Slamel- says:

            A small personal struggle is the perfect follow up, I believe, to world shattering Events. How does one deal with all the broken things left in the wake? I feel like if the story can be relatable and intimate, a comparitively small plot can be fantastic. The trick is to try NOT to match or exceed the prior scale. But hey…I'm not published so who knows…

            I think a decent example is final fantasy 12. It's plot was lambasted for being small. But I felt like it was a much needed change of pace from the rest of the series, which is bloated with nearly incomprehensible apocalyptic storylines.

          • tomlloyd says:

            I think the most important thing is to do something different. Whether it's a new world, new scale, new characters, if you're re-hashing the same stuff, you'll get found out!

  • I’m obviously going to read a review of a book called DemonStorm.
    And now I’m glad I did. Characters make a book for me. Bernard Cornwell is the king of character creation in my mind and has really plagued me in that I judge books with poor characters so harshly. But it seems like the characters in this series are what makes it so special, so I’m keen to dive in and give it a go.


    • Alex Gordon says:

      I used to read a lot of stuff by a guy that wrote mostly horror novels. Looking back I think that what made all of his novels so great were the “characters”.

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