I received a free copy of The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman from the publisher in return for review consideration; receipt of a free copy has not affected my opinion or the contents of this review. The Devouring Gray is a YA fantasy novel, due to be published by Titan Books in the UK on 16th April 2019.
Below is the Goodreads synopsis of the book:
Branches and stones, daggers and bones,
They locked the Beast away.
After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.
Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.
Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.
The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.
I’ve got to admit that this is definitely a case where a book’s cover is what got me interested in the book! So that’s big shout out to Natasha MacKenzi for blowing this one out of the park. I’d not heard of this book, but when the cover popped up online, I just had to go and look it up, and then the synopsis intrigued me and I had it added to my TBR. And when it arrived, I was not disappointed! The cover is gorgeous, and the pink sprayed edges are perfect and so bright. I was also lucky enough to get these beautiful cards with my copy, and being able to see the illustrations that are so vital to the story was a really lovely extra.
Anyway, once I’d gotten past the gorgeous cover and into the book, I was hooked from the start. We get multiple POV characters in Gray, and I think it really worked for the story. Each character has such a different perspective on what’s going on, and it meant that as the reader, I felt like I understood what was going on even when some of the characters didn’t have all the information. Herman has done a great job of pacing the reveals throughout the story in way that feels organic and satisfying, and I always felt like I was right where the narrative wanted me to be. There’s a good creep factor to the secret side of Four Paths as well, but not so much that I (a notorious wuss) couldn’t read it.
Unsurprisingly, Violet and Harper were my favourite of the Founder kids. I loved how honest and outspoken Violet was, and how she often managed to surprise other characters with her simple acceptance, and her willingness to acknowledge when her words and actions caused hurt to others. And Harper, all full of anger and distrust, called to me from the minute she was introduced. I loved her storyline, how she worked to find a way to accept herself despite what she thought were her failings.
Gray is also, from my perspective, is also a great example of how key good adult characters can be to a YA story. Oftentimes, the adult characters in YA are missing, or else so sketchily drawn that they feel like a combination of tropes being employed to move a main character forward. Herman, however, has provided a group of complex adult characters whose choices show the teen characters how being an adult doesn’t necessarily mean that you make better decisions or are any more sorted than younger people.
I also want to point out how gorgeously, casually queer this book is. Although sexuality is not a focus of the story, I just love that a ton of characters, including some of the main ones, are queer, and it’s not even a thing. I think there’s huge power in this kind of representation to normalise marginalised identities, particularly as you’re likely to pick up readers who aren’t necessarily seeking out queer books. I particularly love it in YA fiction, because this kind of casual, low-level representation would never have been a thing when I was a teen myself. It echoes the diversity of the real world in a way that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I absolutely loved this book. It had so many things that I love – weird small towns, complicated relationships, so much queerness. It’s a book that constantly surprised me, and I think anyone who loves YA fantasy will want to get a copy of this.
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