Michelle Rowen

Demon Princess 1

Bloomsbury (2010)

ISBN: 9780802795342

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts, May 2010

This is a tricky one.  I started out thinking it was utterly vapid, and I say this as someone who regularly reads Gossip Girl novels for fun.  The character seemed shallow, boring and utterly mundane.  Supposedly a usual outsider who just happens to have lucked out and made it to the ‘popular’ group at her new school, Nikki struck me as a third rate Bella – pretty, well-off, no problems, and yet has a bit of a self esteem problem to make her seem more human.  She’s had a hopeless crush on a boy at school who is perfectly amenable to asking her to the dance.  Life is sweet.

Even when the mysterious stranger turned up to tell her she is the long-lost daughter of a demon king, and is about to come into her own demonic powers, I remained unmoved.  But slowly, slowly, Nikki started to grow on me.  She doesn’t have the wit of Buffy, or the delicious viciousness of Blair and Serena, but she does have horns, and you have to respect that in a girl.

I didn’t buy the romantic aspects of the story – she meets three attractive young men through the story.  One turns out to be a waste of space, one is attractive but barely there and obviously being saved for an extra point of a love triangle in future books. I rather liked Michael, the Shadow who Nikki’s father gives her as a servant.  His backstory and the problems thrown in the way of a relationship between them are genuinely interesting.  If only I had the slightest belief in a chemistry between them – the scenes between Michael and Nikki felt like they were being played by actors who were phoning in disinterested performances.  I’m always skeptical about teen love scenes where they talk more about their feelings than they act on them.

Here’s what I did like about the book, though, because despite all of the problems with it, I did come away with very positive feelings towards it.  The main story is not a romantic one, but about Nikki’s relationship with her father the Demon King, who is on his deathbed and trying to save her from inheriting his kingdom.  Despite the dangers of changing to her new demon form, she does so repeatedly, and it’s such a different power than the type we normally see in paranormal YAs.  It’s not glamorous, for a start – sure, she does some rampaging in a Versace dress, one of the funniest bits of the story, but she’s RAMPAGING.  In demon form, monstrous and hardly pretty or delicate.  I also liked the ongoing theme of rebellion, and how being told what she should do, or what she has to do, sets off a warning siren in Nikki’s head.  There’s also an intriguing little subplot with her best friend, which I was disappointed to see was not resolved in this book, but I think will be in a future volume.

There’s the thing.  Despite its many flaws and moments that made me wince, I will be hunting out the next of the Demon Princess series.  It’s different and interesting enough to stand above the many, many other paranormal YAs out there, and I do want to know what happens next.  If the family, friendship and supernatural power plotlines continue as strongly as in this first volume, I can definitely overlook the utter ‘meh’ of the by-the-numbers star cross’d romance.