It’s fitting that this is the first review that kicks off the blog’s third year – and fitting that I’m posting this review in Winter, too. 🙂
I read it a while ago, yes, but the book –and the characters- are still fresh in my mind, which is a testament to the world that Rod created and the personalities he’s peopled it with.
The Demi-Monde is one of the most interesting non-existent worlds I’ve had the pleasure of losing myself in – it is fully realized, with layers of culture, superstition, history and extreme realism; extreme because of what the Demi-Monde is (which you will understand once you’ve read the novel). I don’t want to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say that as I entered the Demi-Monde –by means of differing POV chapters and excellent intros to every chapter- I got exposed to many different aspects of the world, from its interesting history to its many societal levels to the spiritual beliefs of the characters. The worldbuilding that Rod has done for Winter is incredible – there’s so much that piqued my interest, so much that’s hinted at and not fully explained, as well as plenty that is explained just enough to give the world that feeling of authenticity so that it’s easier for belief to be suspended, that I really did feel suspended somewhere weird and exotic and scary and damned cool.
Character-wise, Rod created some very cool, and in some cases, downright scary and loathsome characters; the Demi-Mondians are, like us, colourful and unique – there’s a con artist who preys upon the gullible and rich and hopeless, there’s a spoilt rich kid who has revolutionary ideas that don’t quite prepare her for the changes that come her way, there’s a young woman who is headstrong and desperate and intelligent and stubborn, qualities that propel her through the strange new world she finds herself in; there’s an overweight and decidedly insane club-owner who has fingers in many, many pies, there’s a studiously principled government worker who’s trying to raise a daughter as best he can, there’s a woman so in over her head that she isn’t at all prepared for the situations she finds herself in, and plenty more, including a host of damned evil bastards who chill as well as entertain.
There’s also plenty of action in the novel – everything from escaping through crowded streets to all-out war to strange rituals; and the action is in-your-face and visceral, especially the war-scenes. The novel’s pace doesn’t let up for a moment and I found myself really appreciating the balance between plot-progression, character-development and world-building. Winter doesn’t read like a debut at all – Rod’s guiding hand and vision really impressed me and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a masterful storyteller. He managed to build an incredibly interesting world, people it with excellent, entertaining and unique characters, and build a plot that is as surprising as it is scary – I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series! Rod kicks off things with a bang and has left me hungry to see what’s coming next – I can’t help thinking that either the Demi-Monde will be rubble after the series runs its course, or our world (at least, ‘our world in the novel’) will be. 😉
All in all, The Demi-Monde: Winter is damned impressive – the world is sprawling, supremely interesting and will probably spawn plenty of lengthy conversations among those who study societies and government systems; the characters are entertaining, interesting and unique, and the plot, though not relentless –which wouldn’t have fit the world or the characters, anyway- moves along at enough pace that it kept me absorbed and curious. It’s an excellent debut, assured and inventive, and showcases Rod’s amazing imagination and ability to tell a story. Really cool, and highly recommended!
9 / 10
Do head over to the excellent Demi-Monde website – it’s awesomely immersive and entertaining, giving you just enough info about the world and some of the characters to really pique your curiosity. Also, check out Rod’s blog – plenty of interesting articles and thoughts which Rod regularly updates.
Check back next week for a review of Daniel Polansky’s The Straight Razor Cure. 🙂