Book Review: THE DEMON WORLD by Sally Green

title in swirlin
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 3.5 stars
Series: yes - second book in trilogy



Book cover for THE DEMON WORLD: title in swirling white on a purple and orange ombre background with black swirl

A princess. A soldier. A servant. A demon hunter. A thief. An unlikely group on the run from the sadistic and power-hungry King Aloysius of Brigant.

The Smoke Thieves have discovered that demon smoke is not only an illegal drug used for pleasure, but in fact, when taken by children, demon smoke briefly gives its users super-human strength. Aloysius’ plan is simple and brutal: kill the demons for their smoke, and use that smoke to build an unstoppable army of children to take over Pitoria, Calidor, and then the rest of the world. The Smoke Thieves are the only ones who understand this plan—but can they stop it?

Catherine, Aloysius’ daughter, is seen as a traitor from all sides; Tash is heartbroken after the loss of her one friend and sees nothing left for her in the human world; Edyon is wanted for murder; March is carrying the secret of his betrayal of his new love; Ambrose is out for revenge–and all the while, the demons have plans of their own…

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


My review of THE SMOKE THIEVES is the first I ever posted on this site, over two years ago, and ends with “and I’m interested in seeing what happens next!” *laughs/sobs* So, yeah, I kinda left THE DEMON WORLD sitting on my shelves for over a year.

This is an enjoyable read, but not one that left me going “I wish I’d read this last year”, which I think is to do with the writing style. It’s epic fantasy that does feel more classical, which I enjoyed. It’s a story of kingdoms at war, diving deeper into the magic of the Demons through Tash.

I’ll be honest, even re-reading THE SMOKE THEIVES, I hadn’t twigged that the Demon World was an actual place. I thought it was some semblance of just a place where demons were sharing our world and so it was smoky, not a semi-alternate reality underground with difference rules. It was pretty cool to then discover it was a real place with a different way of communicating.

THE DEMON WORLD is obviously the middle book in a series – it doesn’t feel like filler (i.e. it doesn’t feel like stuff chucked in to pad time and move people around ahead of the final book) as there’s a bunch of important revelations and character moments. However the ending doesn’t feel like much of an ending. The stakes don’t feel higher but also it doesn’t feel resolved. I was very surprised when I reached the ending that it was the end – I was expecting more thematic conclusion.

I have no problem with cliff-hangers at the end of books. if they’re done well, I love them as they make me eager to keep reading, keep me wondering about the book. However, I believe that a book needs some sense of resolution in major plot goals, some major progress made. It can be that a character’s actions have made everything worse, but there still needs to be a sense that there has been a motion towards or away from goals. In this book, I didn’t really get that. In terms of the war, which is the major plot point, the situation is almost exactly the same.

This is a book that feels pretty predictably and stereotypically YA when it comes to the relationships. March still hasn’t told Edyon the truth and so that all comes out messily after they’ve fallen in love. Catherine can’t be with Ambrose but loves him – and he is the character whose age I cannot pin down. I feel like he must be early 20s given his role (but hopefully not as she’s 17), but also he’s written like a 16 year old when it comes to love. The relationships felt very… pedestrian as they’re such common beats.

Something I noticed while re-reading THE SMOKE THIEVES that was then carried into this books was the prose style. Bluntly put, it’s not the most elegant – and I don’t mean in a pretty sense. It’s very blunt at getting the information across – consistently “telling” information rather than “showing”. It’s a style that a lot of writing advice warns against and this series is a pretty good example of why.

For a start, the actions scenes are incredibly passive, not punchy and quick and active to pull you into the moment. I had to re-read a few scenes to get that they were action moments, as there was no difference in pacing or tension between them and “regular” scenes. It’s also rare to be shown the characters experiencing the emotions, or get the world building shown through interaction. Instead, it’s all given on the page such that it’s hard to miss.

It feels like you’re outside watching the story happen with several sheets of glass between you and the moment. The distance makes it harder to connect to the characters or feel much tension because there’s no intimacy.

This is not to say that it ruins the book – it’s 3.5 stars – but I had this persistent sense of wanting more. It felt like this book could be so much more engaging and consuming if only the writing drew me in.


Read my reviews of other books by Sally Green:

The Smoke Thieves (this series):

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