Review: Running with the Demon
Monday, May 17, 2021

Running with the Demon (Word & Void, #1)Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite growing up with Terry Brooks' Shannara books, I'd never read his Word and Void series, so I've decided to rectify that. :)
Running with the Demon is an urban fantasy in that it takes place in the contemporary world with the addition of magic. In this case, magic that most people are unaware of. However, you can definitely tell that Brooks is an epic fantasy writer at heart.

In the world that Brooks created, the battle between good and evil take the form of servants of the Word (good) and the Void (evil). On the side of good is John Ross, a knight of the word who dreams every night of the future he is trying to prevent. He uses information his future self learns to affect what is happening in the present in an effort to change the future. Fighting for evil is an insidious demon who walks unseen among men and whispers into their hearts and minds, feeding the negative emotions he finds there until they snap and commit unspeakable acts. Caught in the middle between these two forces is fourteen year old Nest Freemark, who wields a dangerous magic that could be claimed by either side.

I really liked the characters in this story, though I feel like John Ross was a little pathetic as a knight. He spent a good deal of the book depressed at how little he could do, but then kept saying he'd done all he could. I disagree. Maybe he was just tired of failing, or succeeding and having it turn out to be pointless. I imagine walking through the terrifying future of your failure each night would get a little discouraging. Still, I feel like there was a lot more he *could* have done that might have eased the burden on some of the other characters. I was also a little annoyed at him at the end, having kept his secrets through so much, that he decided to unburden himself when those secrets no longer served much purpose.

Similarly, I enjoyed the character of Nest's grandmother, who raised and protected her but also made Nest's life more difficult and mysterious than it needed to be. Her grandma could have made Nest's path much simpler by sharing any or all of the history she chose instead to keep to herself, leaving Nest to flounder and discover the truth by herself. A lot of this book was about keeping secrets, and while I get that those secrets allowed the author to draw out the suspense, I did find myself losing patience with the characters' tightlippedness several times.

I especially loved the way Brooks portrayed his demon. Patient, methodical, tireless. He was everything a demon should be. Not all violence and rage, but the insidious voice in a person's head that brings out the worst in them until they destroy themselves.

Brooks' story telling is wonderfully engrossing, pulling readers fully into his world. As I mentioned in my intro, the fact that he is an epic fantasy writer definitely comes through in his style. The most obvious example would be his languid descriptions and recaps that come at the beginning of each chapter. While the writing was smooth and pleasant, it sometimes felt a little formulaic in execution. I could mark the first page and a half of each chapter as omniscient exposition to set the scene and mood, recounting any relevant information that may have taken place off-page and often involving some sort of flashback. The characters also spent a good deal of time in quiet contemplation, which is something most modern UF writers tend to steer clear of in favor of a faster pace.

All in all, I enjoyed the story and I'm ready to jump right in to the second book in the series: Knight of the Word.

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