Thursday, September 13, 2018

Review: The Demon Race by Alexandria Warwick

*The Demon Race will be released Tuesday, September 18th in Ebook and Paperback formats!*

The Demon Race by Alexandria Warwick
Wolf Publishing, 2018
Ebook ARC. 351 pages.

About The Demon Race:
"A race across the desert. 
An unimaginable prize. 

It occurs once every thousand years: the Demon Race. A test of will and strength, it is a race across the Saraj, a fight for the prize of a lifetime. And it is the key to Namali Hafshar’s freedom. 

When shy, seventeen-year-old Namali learns of her arranged marriage, she flees home and enters the Demon Race for the chance to change her fate. But to compete, she must cross the Saraj on a daeva, a shadow demon that desires its own reward: to infect her soul with darkness. 

Namali soon learns the desert holds more dangers than meets the eye. The only person she can trust is Sameen, a kind competitor seeking his own destiny. As her affection for him grows, however, so too does the darkness in her heart. 

In this race of men and demons, only one can win. But the price of winning might be more than Namali is willing to pay."

Going into The Demon Race, I expected an adventurous YA novel that was on the darker side, but still something relatively 'of the norm.' I did not expect such a dark, emotional, character-driven, all-around stunning journey to find oneself. I am more than thrilled about this book. This is a standalone fantasy with a Middle Eastern-inspired desert setting and an abundance of demons and daevas. There is a very minor romantic aspect of this book, but it does not overtake the story and there is really nothing physical. There is, however, plenty of violence and disturbing aspects of this novel, so if that's not your thing then I would just keep that in mind.

The culture of this world is Middle Eastern-inspired, but with its own set of gods and religion that I really enjoyed learning about. I love that Warwick created some strong religious stories and rituals around this culture that really cemented it as something that felt authentic. At the same time, however I would have also loved to know even more about some of the other major gods or players. One small disappointment I had was with the daevas themselves. I won't go into the role they play itself because it's a small surprise, but I wanted to know more about them and what they were like. They were a clear representation of evil and sort of 'infected' people with their evil, but I would have liked to have them described more often or even expanded upon whether they had any sort of personality. This is a minor issue, but it is one that would have brought this book to life even more for me and intrigued me even more.

Our main protagonist, Namali, lost her mother a few years prior to the start of the events of this book and has been living alone with her father ever since. Her father has been closed off to her since her mother's death, and at the very beginning of the novel Namali is informed that she will be married off to a merchant, something she does not want to do. I thought Namali was a great character. She's not without her flaws, but she's a surprisingly steadfast young woman who knows what she wants--and what she doesn't--and will do anything she can do get it, a determination that she didn't even realize she had in the beginning of the book. As mentioned, this is a majorly character-driven book, so Namali's development throughout the events of the story are incredibly important and also written extremely well. She's a bit on the quiet side and is often unsure of herself, but at various moments of the book she begins to find her own bravery and find out who she truly is and what she wants from her life. Namali's entire journey through darkness, despair, anger, and hope is something that I found beautiful and that affected me deeply, as I could relate to many of the feelings Namali struggled with, even though our situations are of course vastly different.

The second most prominent character in this book is Sameen, a young man that Namali meets at the beginning of her journey. Sameen is an angel (not literally) and someone I hope I can be like. He's kind, caring, and seems to be a genuinely selfless person who cares about others. He knows what he has to do survival and is willing to do it, and he is also a very loyal person. I don't want to go into Sameen's role too much in this story, but he acts a wonderful balance for Namali's own struggles and is another great character int his book.

This is also a very insightful book with themes such as female oppression, judging others, etc., and I really enjoyed this most of the time. There were a few times where it did start to feel a bit overdone and that the message was being forced into the reader than the merely fully absorbed, but it still didn't bother me too much in the end. It is something that I could see some readers disliking, though, so I thought it was worth mentioning since it was something that even I noticed.

I don't know for sure whether or not the evil attempting to overtake Namali and other characters was meant to have any relation to depression or things in that realm, but this really hit home for me. The struggle between Namali and the evil that attempts to take over both her and the rest of the competitors is one of the biggest conflicts in this book, and it speaks to so many true aspects of life itself. The message that no matter how much darkness overtakes you, no matter how many bad thoughts you might have or fears you have about yourself, there is hope and there is a chance to find yourself again is a huge one in this book, and also one that I think is incredible important.

This is a book that I know I will not forget about easily, if ever, because of how much I wasn't expecting it. I didn't expect to highlight so many paragraphs and phrases that were so real and so relevant to my life and the world itself. The biggest surprise was simply how dark and cruel this book was. The Demon Race goes to some dark places, but it does so in a beautiful, impacting manner. Whether you like the story itself or not, there is no denying Warwick's ability to craft some truly beautiful words and employ a brilliant style of prose.

Overall, I've given The Demon Race four-and-a-half stars. If you like dark, character-driven adventure journeys, then you must pick this one up! This is one that I will definitely try to get my hands on a physical copy of so that I can easily revisit it and tab up my favorite lines.

Buy the book: Amazon

*I received a copy of The Demon Race courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.*

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