“Maybe there’s a Creator, after all…Just been looking for Him in the wrong place.”
Make sure to check out this week’s podcast where we review The Core and look back on The Demon Cycle as a whole!
In this final installment to The Demon Cycle Jardir, Arlen, and Renna make their way to the Core in an attempt to stop the demons from rising at night for all time as their friends and loved ones must find a way to prepare for the swarm of demons that are coming for everyone.
The story has expanded so much from The Warded Man so there are many plot threads to tie up in this book and many more POV characters. Because of this it seemed like the first half of the book was all setup to getting into the demons attacking and Arlen and Co. going down into the Core. It seemed to take a while to get everything going.
Once it does get going though, the tension really does not stop. The thousands of people still on the surface are threatened by the demons being more aggressive than anyone recalls, the mind demons making it so that it is difficult to trust anyone. The small group travelling to the Core are threatened at every turn with people and creatures that have lived below the surface for thousands of years and mutated into something no longer human.
In the first book of the series, The Warded Man, the humans are all but helpless before the demons. They have no way to fight them and so all that they can do is hide. That book had a sense of helplessness that made the demons so terrifying to the reader. As the series went along and the characters developed various ways to fight the demons, that terror lessened. Now though, with the demons attacking like they never have before and actually utilizing strategies, that terror is back.
Looking back on the series as a whole, some of the more subtle world-building is impressive, particularly the language. Thesa is a very western culture and reads pretty much just like every other fantasy setting out there so one kind of knows what to expect from it. But it sets itself apart in small ways, such as the unique dialect that some of the characters use. “Ent” instead of “ain’t” and other grammatical changes that look strange on the page until you sound them out and then they make something almost like an American Southern accent but not quite.
The clashing culture, the Krasians, are something very new. They don’t have the same feel as most other fantasy settings but they work really well with this world and adds a new dynamic to the story. This is primarily a story of humans versus demons but the clashing of cultures that are so polar opposites is just as, if not more, fascinating than Sharak Ka.
And the use of their language! It isn’t anything like Elven in LotR or Klingon in Star Trek where an entire language was invented for the story but what was created is used brilliantly so that readers can pick up on context clues and grasp the suffixes.
The differences in the two cultures is probably best symbolized by the parallel conflict between the two most famous people from both, Arlen Bales and Jardir Ahmann, and their respective nations. Both are claimed by their people to be the Deliverer and both do indeed seek more than anything an end to the demons rising in the night. But they, both the characters and the cultures, are so vastly different that their working together threatens to make more problems than it solves.
A theme that is brought up a lot in reviews is the women in the story. The story as a whole is supposed to take place some 300 years after the rise of the demons. Prior to that it is hinted that civilization looked something like what we know today with technology. With all of humanity threatened, it is not a far stretch of the imagination to think that it would become a woman’s duty to bear as many children as possible as society returned to an almost feudal state. This is by no means morally right but it is a plausible future in this situation. As a thought experiment of how society would change given this set of circumstances, this is plausible and so part of the world-building, part of the setting and not so much a statement on a woman’s place or disregarding of the strength of women.
Because the treatment of women in the series can’t really be discussed without talking about the individual women themselves. By the end of this series, there are more female characters than male and every one of them has their own kind of strength.
Leesha is incredibly intelligent. Wonda is a physically strong fighter. Renna, Shikvah, and Ashia are also some very intense fighters. Amanvah, also very intelligent and loyal to her cause. Inevera is cunning and power-hungry but always with the intention of defeating the demons. All of these women are kickass in their own way. They are not just the same “strong” woman copy-pasted with different names.
While slow at times to get all the pieces in place for the final ball to begin rolling, this was a satisfying ending to a fantastic series. Enough was solved that this feels like a good ending for the characters but just enough was left open so we can cross our fingers that we will have the opportunity to revisit Thesa and Krasia again at some point.
I felt like the beginning of this book was almost scrambling to get everyone in position for the various final showdowns and so it did drag a little and skipped around a little without much forward motion plot-wise. But once it did get going, it was both pretty much exactly what I expected from the series for the most part and wonderful to see everything fall into place.
The realizations about magic and the wards and why they work that Arlen has at the end of the book are oddly one of the highlights for me because it answers a few questions that I have had for the entire series. I had wondered about the why of the magic and why the music worked against the demons but I was honestly just going with it. In those final moments though, we are provided with an indirect answer and it was such a small thing but I really loved it.
This epic conclusion of The Demon Cycle is finally here. This journey has been crazy with demons, psychopaths, and even pregnancy. I had a great time with this series. The Core I feel, while the conclusion was epic, was predictable. But it made sense and fit with the rest of the series so well.
One of the big bonuses I give to this series is the inclusion of the Krasian culture. It was a refreshing new are for fantasy and it kept me hooked the whole time.
From the magic wards to the exciting fight scenes, The Core and the rest of the Demon Cycle books are a fantastic time and if you don’t mind a little blood, gore, and sex in your books this is one I fully recommend.