“They weren’t the kings and queens of Four Paths High School – they were its gods.”
Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.
When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?
↠ Title: The Devouring Gray
↠ Release: 16th April [UK]
↠ Genre: Magical Fabulism; Gothic
↠ Author: Christine Lynn Herman
↠ Rating: 4.2 stars
I received a copy from Titan Books in exchange for an honest review ❤
In retrospect, maybe that pull quote above makes this book sound like some dramatic trope-y high school drama, but it is not. I loved this so so so much. It’s delightfully gothic and darkly atmospheric; a small town in the woods haunted by a beast made of nightmares. It also lives up to its comp titles of Stranger Things and slightly lesser so, The Raven Boys – just like in Stranger Things, The Devouring Gray has a beast from a parallel world (known as the Gray) that causes trouble. And whilst it is a lot darker than The Raven Boys, it has similar group dynamics and forest settings. (I would also say it’s a bit like Claire Legrand’s Sawkill Girls and Laure Eve’s The Graces.)
In addition to the truly awesome setting, the characters were very interesting and thought-out. Violet and Isaac were my favourites (and the development of their friendship), but Harper and Justin were really great too. I loved how different their interactions were, and how their friendships with one person differed to another.
> Violet Saunders: the “new girl” in town, but whose family is originally from Four Paths. Is dealing with a lot of grief due to events that happen before the book. Slightly dramatically moody (which I love); probably one of those “edgy kids”. Very musical. Bisexual.
> Justin Hawthorne: that boy who seems to have everything: the looks, the family, the life and the influence. But a lot of things about him are just a veneer to hide a secret. Has a little sister called May.
> Harper Carlisle: Used to be friends/in love with with Justin, but after certain events he and his family shut her out. Can use a sword (!), and has a lot of pent-up aggression over the way she was treated because of a certain event (and rightfully so, I think). Has a residual limb; she is missing her left hand & part of her lower arm. (Might also be bisexual but I can’t recall definitely.)
> Isaac Sullivan: gives of a cold front, but definitely has a soft heart under it all. Potentially one of the most dangerous characters, because of his powers. His family really sucks and treated him badly – and honestly I just want to protect him. He also loves books and is essentially a modern, tortured, broody Byronic hero. Also bisexual.
As you’ve noticed, there is a lot of diversity in this book! Which is AMAZING. And I really admire how Harper is missing a limb but it did not affect her in any way – also, I haven’t really seen much in the way of characters who are missing limbs much in literature and I’m really grateful to see it here.
This book is partly what I wished Sawkill Girls could’ve been, actually. It has many of the same features: queer diversity, group dynamics, a beast that preys on a small, isolated village and a cult, but I just enjoyed The Devouring Gray so much more.
For an almost-400 page book, I sped through this quickly. I loved this so much. It has so many things that I just love (bisexual characters, forests, gothic-ness), and I’m so glad that a book I’ve been excited for for months lived up to my hype! I just know that Christine Lynn Herman is going to become one of my new favourite authors in future (I love her writing style & characterisation) – so I can’t wait for book two, and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do after that.
Also, this UK cover? Incredible. True artistry.
Yes it’s also so Riverdale (there’s even a dinner on the back) but like . . . this is so much better than whatever that show is currently trying to be
TL;DR: A truly delightful debut novel; well-worth a read if you love darkly gothic forests, group dynamics and chaotic bisexuals.