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The Demi-Monde: Spring by Rod Rees

January 12, 2012

The Shadows grow ever darker across the Demi-Monde. And as the soldiers of Heydrich’s ForthRight goose-step into Paris and the long-forgotten evil that is Lilith is awoken, it falls to Norma Williams to lead the resistance.

Lost in the virtual nightmare that is the Demi-Monde, she must come to terms with these terrible responsibilities and with the knowledge that those she thought were her friends are now her enemies. To triumph in this surreal cyber-world she must be more than she ever believed she could be… or perish.


It has been well over a year now since I read The Demi-Monde: Winter, the first book in the Demi-Monde quartet, and although I may have forgotten a few plot details since then, I can still remember the way I felt when I finished it: completely blown away and quite unable to grasp hold of the fact that I would have a whole year to wait for the next instalment! Was it worth the wait, you may ask? Hell yes!

I hadn’t read a great deal of science fiction when I was handed an early review copy of The Demi-Monde: Winter, and I certainly didn’t know what ‘steampunk’ was. I remember looking at this book thinking ‘hmmm…I’m not sure if I’ll ‘get’ it,’ and ‘I’m not sure if it’s for me.’ But I couldn’t have been any more wrong, and it just goes to show how marvellous it can be when you jump outside of your comfort zone and delve into a new genre. The idea of a computer-simulated world where all the monsters and villains of history are replicated and brought to life again for the apparently sole purpose of training soldiers, may sound absolutely ludicrous. But it works, and that’s all down to the genius mind of Rod Rees and his ability to create some fantastically horrific characters, mixed in with some laugh-out-loud prose.

I was a little bit worried when I sat down to read The Demi-Monde: Spring, I have to admit. I remembered most of the characters from the first novel, but I have an awful memory for remember plot details and I wasn’t sure if I had retained enough to be able to just carry on where I left off. Luckily, Rees instantly give you a very subtle reminder of the main events in the first book, and I was able to throw myself right back into the story. The first book centred around the President’s daughter, Norma Williams, becoming somehow trapped in the Demi-Monde. The US government employs jazz singer, Ella Thomas, to jump in and rescue her. Together with a few other characters of the computer simulation world, mainly her new lover Vanka Maykov, and the rather revolting Burlesque Bandstand, they all set out to rescue Norma. However, in the Demi-Monde: Spring the tables have turned. Ella has come to be known as the ‘Messiah’ by the people of the Demi-Monde, and she is soon expected to be the saviour of all its people, rescuing them from the evil of Heydrich’s ForthRight army. Only Ella no longer seems quite the same Ella we have all come to know and love in the first book. There is something different about her, and only those with the power to read auras are able to see this. It is then left to Norma Williams to step up and create an army of her very own against the ForthRight.

The first thing I loved about this second instalment is the role Burlesque comes to play in it all. In the first novel, let’s face it, he is pretty loathsome. And although he’s still not exactly pleasant, I quickly came to love him, not only for his humorous lines, and inappropriate behaviour, but for the simple fact that he’s willing to put his own life on the line, to help others. He is without a doubt my favourite character, and that is all down to Rees’s skill as a writer.

I absolutely adored Vanka and Ella together as a couple in the first novel, and I suppose I found it rather sad that everything turned against them this time. Vanka was an extremely memorable character for me in the first novel, and looking back now, I think I found him to be a little ‘flat’ this time, and that he became slightly overshadowed by other characters such as Burlesque and even Norma at times. Vanka’s constant worry was Ella, which is understandable, but at the same time, a little dull for the reader. I’m interested to see what will happen to their relationship in the coming novels, and I can only live in hope that it will end well for them both. Norma, however, has definitely stepped up to the plate, and become much more likeable. There was a section in particular which I loved, where Norma asks Vanka what it means to be a hero. In the real world, as the President’s daughter, Norma doesn’t have much of a life of her own, and so its interesting to see her develop in this other world, where she is free to become her own person. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how she will develop as the series goes on.

For anyone else who has read The Demi-Monde: Winter, you may remember a certain character called Trixie Dashwood. She represented a great female heroine and became one of my favourite characters in the first book, and I was extremely saddened to find virtually no sign of her in the second book at all, until the very last few pages. This may irritate some of you, but it’s easy to see why Rod chose to do this. The novel as it stands is so jam-packed with new ideas, new storylines and new characters that it would have become a very messy novel if Trixie were included as well. Although I missed her greatly, I think Rod chose to do the right thing by focusing the novel on one area of the Demi-Monde world, and concentrating on fewer main characters, to develop their personalities more. The great thing is with Trixie coming in at the end, its clear we can expect her to play much more of a role in the third book in the series!

If you have read the first book, you will probably remember endlessly flicking to the back of the book to the glossary, to look up one of Rod’s weird and wonderful word creations that frequent the novel. I found myself doing this a lot in the first half – having forgotten what most of them meant in the first book, and trying to grasp the meaning of the new ones. I did get extremely confused at one point, and found the glossary lacking certain words I just didn’t know the meaning of, but were then explained much later in the novel. I think it would have been more helpful to have all the obscure words in the glossary, or at least have an explanation of it as soon as its mentioned in the novel, but by the end I wasn’t too bothered because Rod, thankfully, had clarified everything I needed to know. So if you do find yourself struggling a little like I did, do persevere as all will be explained.

This is truly a fantastic addition to the series, and I’m ever so thankful to Rod Rees for not disappointing his readers. There are some brilliant laugh-out-loud moments in this book, and a great new array of characters – from Florence Nightingale, to the Marquis de Sade. You can also be left feeling very happy that you won’t have to wait a whole other year for the next part! The final two books in the series are being brought forward to later this year! Great news or what?!

If you haven’t yet read the first book in the series, The Demi-Monde: Winter, then what the hell are you waiting for? It was one of my top ten books of 2011 and it deserves many, many more readers! If you’d like to read my review, you can click here.

The Demi-Monde: Spring is out now in hardback, published by Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus. A big thank  you goes to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.


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