I always get a bit nervous when I read high fantasy novels as I’m a real fan of snappy, fast-paced stories and relevant, relatable characters. I always get worried that I’m going to commit the reading sin of all reading sins and start skipping pages to get to actual plot. With Demon Gates, however, I have sighed a huge sigh of relief.
Demon Gates took me back to the moment when I first opened The Fellowship of the Rings. It was a moment when I first grasped how thick the book was, how tiny the type was and how wafer thin the pages were and I sank in despair wondering if this was a book I would ever finish. But when I think back to when I read The Lord of the Rings, I realise that that is exactly what high fantasy is all about. It’s not about quick reads, the author has designed a whole new world for you to explore, the joy of reading comes from the epic nature of a high fantasy, that’s why the fantasy section of the bookshop is filled with fat books. And that is what I have re-learnt from reading Demon Gates.
The story has been constructed so well by Robert Day, balancing both the personal journey of young Valdieron and the overarching epic storyline of the impending escape of the demons on the world. I think Robert has found just the right mix to keep the plot both grounded and fantastical. Valdieron has been a real pleasure to travel with and the time spent on his character over the pages has fleshed him out into someone I’m really quite fond of now. The author’s skill really shows through by the end of the book where you feel both that you have been on an epic journey of adventure and discovery but at the same time you are certain that you ain’t seen nothing yet! There’s a tangible sense that the story has only just begun, that Valdieron has succeeded only in the easiest of his tests.
Possibly one of the greatest assets of Demon Gates is the fight scenes. I love a bit of swashbuckling action and this book is filled with it. The descriptions are so vivid, you’ll be standing there right amongst the action, ducking at the opportune moment. What is really clever is the way Robert Day has written Valdieron’s battle training into his sleep, eradicating the need to spend endless pages on his training rather than getting on with the story. At the same time, Valdieron’s skills do not develop overnight, as it were, his development unfolds across the whole story, keeping it realistic and keeping him human (if indeed that is what he is… Bit of a hint there!).
I really enjoyed Demon Gates, definitely one of my favourite high fantasy stories. It’s clean, it’s not confusing, it’s personal as well as epic, it’s definitely suitable for older teens as it’s not overly graphic and most importantly it’s a really engaging story that has been really well crafted. A definite recommendation whether you are into high fantasy or not, it’s an accessible and enjoyable venture into the genre.