John Christopher had a confirmed knack for the perfect YA SFF novel – young folks (usually boys) thrust into adversity but overcoming it through wit, ability, and, most often, sheer grit. It rightfully brought him fame. Despite a reasonably formulaic approach, his books are enjoyable, and often classics of the genre. Not all of them worked as well, however.
A Dusk of Demons, though first published in 1993, well before Christopher’s death, but well after his most successful books, feels underdeveloped. While it follows Christopher’s formula of a young man in a post-apocalyptic world, it never really develops the world beyond broad outlines. The protagonist is as engaging as most Christopher heroes, meets some interesting characters, and solves some interesting mysteries, but then … the book ends. It feels very much as if Christopher was setting up a trilogy (as he often did), but then either ran out of steam or couldn’t find a buyer. It’s a shame; while not one of his best books, as a series opener I felt this had good promise. As a standalone, it feels like a story somewhat abandoned. Good for Christopher completionists and committed fans, and a pleasant read, but not otherwise essential.