Dogs and Demons

R J Lee Heroux

Publisher: Lulu Pages: 315 Price: (ebook) $3.99 ISBN: 9781387425204 Reviewed: February, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

R.J. Lee Heroux’s energetic YA fantasy features a version of Olympus ruled not by gods but by talking dogs, protectors of their real-world child companions.

Canine brothers Loki and Buddy watch over James, a boy turning six who enters Olympus through a portal to start school with four other six-year-olds and their dogs. As Loki explains, at age six, children are brought to the school “to keep you safe,” particularly from evil Hades, who “feeds on the lost and vulnerable” and “targets children without dogs.”

Canine professors educate them on understanding and accessing Strange Force magic. Meanwhile, dogs battle Hades’ rodent minions. When the group learns that Hades has James’s Mom, they journey to free her.

Interspersed is the mythic tale of six-year-old Heracles. With Heracles’s father dead, his mother nags him to “take care of our family and avenge your pater.” After youthful indiscretions and imprisonment, Heracles becomes a war hero, and his story ultimately intersects with the canine story.

While the novel presents clever ideas, it suffers from numerous flaws. Excessive exposition and complicated names congest the introductory chapters. Obstacles feel random and don’t build on each other. And many chapters repetitively end with characters falling asleep and open with them awakening.

Sentence structure is equally repetitious—”He rubs his eyes”; “He tries to go back to sleep”; “He lets out a sigh”; “He opens his bedroom door”—and the children don’t sound like six year olds, using words like “mycelium,” for example.

Finally, misspellings abound, including: “adrenalin,” “eery,” and “peak” for “peek.”

Another important issue is that it’s hard to discern the target audience. Characters are much younger than YA’s 12-plus target age range, and puns — “purple bark” instead of Purple Heart, “paw-parazzi,” etc. — are “Dad jokes” that will be off-putting to YA readers. Meanwhile, the writing is too complex for younger readers.

In short, Heroux is inventive and demonstrates potential, but this fantasy needs more care to attract a dedicated readership.

Author's Current Residence
Vancouver, BC
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