Title: The Devouring Gray
Author: Christine Lynn Herman
Release Date: 16th April (UK), 4th April (US)
Publisher: Titan (UK)
My Rating: 4 Stars
“On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…
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”
I was kindly gifted a copy of this book by Titan. This in no way affects my thoughts and opinions.
Christine Lynn Herman is the new queen of atmosphere, calling it now. The Devouring Gray was set in this eerie secluded town in upstate New York called Four Paths. (My favourite part was how its SO OLD and has SO MUCH HISTORY when it was founded like 150 years ago! America is mad.) The town was founded based on four families who trapped a monster in an alternative version of Four Paths and have been protecting the town with their powers ever since. We follow the next generation of founders who have just undergone the trials that revealed their powers (or lack thereof) to them, and how they band together to protect the town from the growing threat of the monster from The Gray (an upside-down-esque creepy alternate reality).
I’d say the vibe of this book perfectly matches some of the popular teen shows that have been hot recently. The way I’d describe it is that the town and characters feel very Riverdale, while the atmosphere and danger feel very Stranger Things. If you’re looking for the book version of your favourite Netlix of CW show then I feel like you’d adore this.
You know when a character in an urban fantasy comes to the strange place and just instantly is cool with the weird stuff going on and all the weird people? This was not Violet. She questions everything does not allow other characters to take advantage of her lack of knowledge. She was pretty cool. She also is dealing with a lot of grief and hurt from her sister’s recent death, and instead of bottling it up she actually spends a lot of the book questioning why others don’t allow themselves to feel and process their grief. Violet could easily have fallen into the ‘sad new girl’ trope but she really didn’t feel that way to me. She’s also bisexual.
Harper was a favourite of mine. She lives her life with only half an arm after a mysterious ritual gone wrong. Despite this, she still continues to train in sword fighting in secret, as she did before she lost her hand. She is also harbouring a lot of anger towards Justin and his family for the way they have treated her in the past. The way her friendship develops with Violet is pretty great, I love seeing girls work together.
Isaac is a precious bean. He just wants to heal from his traumatising past and protect the friends he loves. He’s broody, always has a book in hand, bixsexual and his power packs the biggest punch. I really enjoyed his character and he’s probably the character I’m most excited to see develop further in the sequel.
For some reason when I picture Justin, all I think of is Jackson from Sex Education? Even though this character is literally the most typical white boy. It’s definitely partially the character though, not living up to the expectations of his tough mother, thinking he’s special and popular, and realising that his reputation isn’t everything. He has quite a lot of growth throughout the book and becomes less annoying, but I definitely was less rooting for him and more waiting for him to stand up to his mother and admit his mistakes.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this was the representation. There are quite a few bisexual characters in this book, spanning across age groups and none of them felt like a stereotype. All the romance in the story though is INCREDIBLY slow burn and I don’t think anything will come to fruition for a while yet, and certainly doesn’t in this book, so if you’re looking for something that isn’t romance heavy, or you really enjoy slow burn relationship development, then this will be right up your street. We also see disability rep in Harper, which I LOVE to see, especially in more fantasy type settings. I love seeing warriors and strong characters that also have a disability, and how they work around it and not let it affect them. This means a lot to me as someone with a disability – when I tell someone about my invisible illness, I often get treated as something fragile, so to see people with disabilities fighting and not letting themselves be stopped by it or treated differently because of it, it great for me.
The reason why this didn’t reach 5 stars for me, even though I really loved my time reading it, was simply that I felt some things needed fleshing out a little better. I wanted to understand The Gray more and the monster, where is came from and what exactly it is. I felt that some of the characters could be more fleshed out and we could have spent more time getting to know them. This is only the first book though, so there is time to pad these things out and answer some questions.
Christine’s writing throughout The Devouring Gray was absolutely beautiful. It was stunning and descriptive and really conveyed the sense of atmosphere that this sort of story requires. This work was incredibly impressive for a debut, and I’m very excited to read more from her in this series and otherwise. I can’t wait to see how she develops as a writer.