Monday, November 03, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

The novel immediately caught my attention with its opening lines: “There are one thousand five hundred and sixty seven known demons.” While other authors might use this hook to tell a full-blown fantasy tale, Joyce instead steers it in a different direction, taking a more literary approach where the protagonist’s so-called demons may or may not be real.

The prose of the author is easy to get into. Joyce uses simple language and doesn't overwhelm the reader with needless details or dense paragraphs. Instead, he immediately dives into the story and its characters, with its European vibe making itself evident.

The strength of How to Make Friends with Demons in my opinion is its characterization. The narrator is flawed but sympathetic and his tone of voice has a distinct character and beat to it. His supporting cast is equally impressive with their complexity and Joyce takes no short-cuts in presenting them as anything less.

The author also seamlessly combines flashbacks with the present and it is to the author's credit that readers will have no problems discerning which is which. Midway through the book, I had no idea where Joyce would take this novel as he leaves himself open to many avenues and keeps the story compelling. The possibility that the protagonist's demons are all part of his imagination is left dangling which ramps up the suspense and the reader's curiosity.

By the time I reached the end, How to Make Friends with Demons surpassed my expectations and seemed fitting. Overall, this was a terrific find (this is the first time I'm reading Joyce) and a novel that would satisfy even the non-genre readers. Joyce bares out the souls of his characters and uses fantasy tropes as tools to talk about the human experience.

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