The Demon's Surrender

The Demon's Surrender - Sarah Rees Brennan

I wanted to love this book. I really did. But I just didn't. This is more of a 2.25 for me. There were some great things in it, but there were just as many things I had problems with.

In this book, we follow Sin, the girl who was intended to be the next leader of the Goblin Market. But now she’s being challenged by Mae for the position of leader of the place that has been Sin’s world. And if that’s not bad enough, the magicians of the Aventurine Circle continue to threaten the Goblin Market and the people connected to it. With everything she loves now in danger, Sin finds herself allied with the Ryves brothers—a demon and the boy who betrayed all humans for the sake of that demon. But that boy also sacrificed himself to save the life of her little brother. And Sin has a family secret that threatens her position in the Goblin Market as well.

I liked reading from Sin’s point of view. She had an interesting story, and I like her as a character. However, as the point of view for final book of the series, she just did not work for me. Sin was a minor character in the first two books. She was not as connected to the Ryves brothers, who are the main characters of the series in my opinion. And because we were following Sin, we just did not get a lot of focus on them and their relationship, which was my favorite part of the entire series. Their relationship was so brilliant in the first book, but the subsequent books lost that focus, which is a shame because it was the strongest part of the series for me. I feel like the series lost that focus a bit more with each book. I would have rather had each book from Nick’s point of view or maybe Alan’s in this book. By using Sin as the point of view, many of the developments that occurred with Nick, Alan, Jamie, and Mae were only seen by having her eavesdrop on them. She was a spectator for quite a few scenes, rather than an active participant, and Sin didn’t have the background knowledge to understand the significance of everything that she was seeing. I liked Sin’s story, but I think it would have been better as a companion book or side story.

I have a big problem with one of the big ongoing plot points—the battle between Sin and Mae for the position of leader of the Goblin Market.

I find it very difficult to believe that Mae is so much better at everything than Sin for many reasons. Sin grew up in the Goblin Market. Her mother was next in line to be leader; when her mother died, Sin took that spot. Considering how careful about planning Merris has been shown to be and dedicated to the Market, I find it very unlikely that she took no time to work on preparing Sin to be the perfect leader, especially since Merris knew she didn’t have long to live. Yet, we’re told that Mae did much better in every single test regarding the Goblin Market. In the book, she attends her fourth Market ever. How is it that she can be so much more knowledgeable than the girl who grew up with the Market? The girl who was to be the next leader? One of the tasks had to do with finances. On one hand, we have Sin, a girl who is raising her siblings alone and earns all the money for them. During the book, we see that she knows the proper pricing of any object in the Goblin Market immediately, how long a sum of money will last for living expenses, and how to get a tourist’s interest so that that tourist will spend money. We keep having her thinking about things in terms of the customer. And then we have Mae, a rich girl who has never had to worry about money. When a challenge has to do with the economy of the Goblin Market and improving it, Sin is said to be completely clueless, but Mae immediately came up with solutions. In the earlier books, we were told that the Goblin Market is all about business and shown that Sin, having been raised in that environment and being the next leader, is good with business. It would only make sense that she would be, and yet that’s not what we are now shown.

Another challenge has the two of them trying to find the perfect spot for the Goblin Market to move to. Mae finds one very quickly, while Sin is still asking around. I realize Mae has the money, but one would think that Sin, with the connections she’s had since childhood and the experience of all the moving with the Goblin Market, would know what to look for and who to talk to. That should be especially true for the next leader of the Market.

We’re told that Mae is wonderful at plans and that Sin is horrible at them, but I’m left wondering at this. In this book, we see Mae work her way into the Aventurine Circle as a messenger, only to throw it all away for revenge. To get this revenge, she was used by Gerald, and she knew was being used. She just didn’t care. When Alan says she has no clue what she just did, Mae gets mad at him and says she sort of knows what she’s doing and that he has to trust her. Of course, her actions directly lead to

Alan getting possessed just like Gerald wanted.

(show spoiler)

 So rather than proving how great Mae is at planning, I think that proves how great Gerald is at it. I think Alan is the only one on the good side that is actually shown to be brilliant at making plans. Mae’s big plan in the end to solve the problem means that the Goblin Market will

regularly be murdering people by giving Anzu the bodies of magicians. And we know Sin understands how big of cost that it—that this puts them at a very similar level to the magicians that they once condemned. We don’t see that from Mae. We don’t know if she recognizes that her plan involves them murdering a lot of people. And not knowing if Mae realizes that what she is doing is wrong at least on some level, even if they all believe it to be the best solution, makes me question her leadership abilities again.

(show spoiler)

I just feel like this book was about making Mae look better by making Sin look worse. We have Sin watching Mae put on an act among magicians and wishing she could act like that. Yet before that moment, Sin kept going on about how most of her life was just her putting on various acts that she does so well that everyone believes them to be true. She knows exactly how to act so that she can get the response she wants, and Sin knows that she’s good at it. Instead of me seeing Mae as being amazingly awesome, I am left questioning what has happened to Sin and why everyone is seeing Mae as Miss Perfect.

And then we have something that has bothered me from the first book—Mae doing the summoning dances. We are told time and again how dangerous these dances are, how many people die. Yet, Mae wants to dance, despite having had no training, and she gets what she wants. When Nick says something about her being stupid and risking her life, Sin gets mad at Nick for saying that. And yet, I think he is the only one with reason when it comes to that matter. To me, it’s like the Goblin Market being a circus and the dances being a trapeze show with no nets. Mae goes to the circus for the first time and sees the trapeze for the first time ever. She decides she wants to do it, and the ringleader decides right there to have her be part of the act, even though she has had no training. And for some reason, she’s pretty good at it. The next time she goes to the circus, she says she wants to do the trapeze again, but this time she wants to set up all the equipment for it too, so she is risking not only her life, but the life of the one performing with her. And then later, the ringleader suddenly decides that maybe the outsider would be the perfect person to take over as ringleader of the circus rather than the person who was raised in the circus to be ringleader. If that whole scenario sounds ridiculous to you, you now know how I feel about Mae doing the dances and becoming leader of the Goblin Market.

The romantic relationships in this series are all frustrating to me for various reasons. Nick kept making it very clear last book that he was not interested in Mae, but she kept ignoring his wishes. I am not a fan of a person ignoring the wishes of another when it comes to one’s body and who one wants to be with. And Mae’s persistence with Nick in spite of his explicitly saying no completely put me off of the idea of them as a couple. Even without that, Mae and Nick have never made sense to me. Nick’s been a jerk to her most of the time. He’s yelled at her, threatened her, and forcibly took control of her body for a while. Mae will yell at him, say she’s not going to take it, and then go back to him later and make excuses for what he did. Nick doesn’t understand her or humans in general. He’s made improvements, but with the number of times he and Mae have gotten into a fight or had a problem because of his cluelessness on humans doesn’t really lead me to believe that a romantic relationship will actually work between the two of them.

For Seb and Jamie, I was not a fan of Seb’s making Jamie’s life miserable and drawing a ton of pictures of him without his knowledge in the previous book. To me, that is stalking. It’s the same idea as secretly taking tons of pictures of another person. It’s even joked about later that Seb likes to stalk Jamie. In the last book, Jamie greatly disliked Seb. Since Seb still believes near the end of the book that Jamie hates him, they clearly didn’t bond during their time in the Aventurine Circle, so I’m left wondering when Jamie’s change in attitude toward Seb occurred. I can understand how things could have changed, but without seeing any of it, I’m left unsatisfied.

And Alan and Sin just moved too quickly for me. Sin spent the first two books hating Alan. And suddenly she’s put into a situation where she feels indebted to him and doesn’t know how to feel. This could have made for a very interesting relationship between the two as Sin tried to adjust her mindset and make sense of things. But instead, before we’re even halfway through the book, Sin declares that she is in love. It just moved far too quickly for me to really believe it. It felt more like pairing the spares.

There were also a lot of plot points that got kind of rushed or brushed off. I went into this expecting to see the competition for leader between Mae and Sin. Instead, we get vague references to a couple of the past tasks, but don’t see any of them. We find out about Sin’s family secret of

Lydie having strong magic and then Sin getting exiled from the Market with her family. It could have been interesting to see Sin work her way back in and work to convince everyone to change their minds. This never really gets dealt with. The Market has to accept magicians, and they’re not happy about it, but they just go along with what Mae says. With such a strong negative reaction to a seven-year-old girl who grew up in the Market with everyone, I expected more of a backlash against this plan, but we see none of that.

(show spoiler)

We have Sin’s conflicting feelings toward Alan, which I mentioned above. We don’t get to see much of that conflict, but instead see her go pretty quickly to being in love with him. We hardly get to see any of Jamie and his time in the Aventurine Circle, which would have been interesting. I know not everything can be dealt with in full, but too many things were rushed for me.

This isn’t a bad book, and I do still like the series. I just wish I could have liked it a lot more.