Review of the Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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.
 

Firstly I would like to thank Titan Books for sending me a gorgeous copy of this book for review, sprayed edges are always a winner and I always get a strange satisfaction from the slight pull of the painted pages on the first read through! The Devouring Gray is a book that has been on my radar for a little while now, I know several people who really enjoyed it and I loved listening to the Author speak during YALC this year, it’s no surprise then that I jumped at the chance to be offered a review copy.

The Devouring Gray is a real slow burn of a book, we are drip fed information as life in small town America continues around us with the Gray always looming. The pace does build slowly but by the end it reaches a huge crescendo which leaves a number of questions just begging to be answered. The writing style was evocative and I found that without even realising, I had built up a strong emotional connection with the characters, which meant that each new and ever escalating reveal hit me like a sucker punch. A wonderful, if a little bleak, picture is painted of Four Paths itself, like the Gray has seeped into the very fabric of it’s being, I felt like I was reading in black and white which meant that every splash of colour had real significance. A flash of blue hair, copper leaves, red rimmed eyes, each mention given extra weight and relevance through its scarcity which helped sear the images in my mind.  It’s world building feels almost a little Gothic too with huge turreted houses, long limbed branches, and ominous statues, which for me felt like a perfect balance to the slight “high school by numbers” contemporary edge. pulling it nicely into a fantasy bracket. I’ve never watched Riverdale so I can’t comment on it’s comparison but I totally get the Stranger Things connection, Four Paths could totally be a flash forward Hawkins!

Of the characters, I loved Isaac the most, he has lost probably more than anyone and the emotional and physical scars made my heart go out to him. The Founder Children are diverse and whilst there is no real romance in the story, there is plenty simmering away underneath.  I also really liked that Harper refused to be defined by her disability, it drives her to be better and in fact makes her the most kick ass out of all of them. Also, kids out on patrol gave me serious Buffy feels!

I have to say that whilst I am usually a fan of slow burns I did struggle with the first part of this book, I felt that the story and characters weren’t introduced in a particularly clear way and the characters did feel a little interchangable at first. I would have loved more detail on the background of the founding families and their powers, just to help with cementing the characters more firmly in my mind, but in a town full of secrets and lies, this was perhaps by design. I wish there was more about the Gray and the beast within too, it had the potential to be so much more, but with book 2 on the horizon I may get my wishes granted!

The Devouring Gray has wonderful, lyrical prose and characters that sneak up on you with your feels for them. I loved the imagery and creativity in its ideas and symbolism, and that ending makes me desperate to get my grabby hands on the follow up!

4*

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