Review: The Devouring Gray

I read The Devouring Gray last year but hadn’t yet got around to sharing my review of it. With the sequel coming out next week (Tues 21st April 2020), now seems like the perfect time!

***

“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?”

***

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman was one my most anticipated reads of 2019. Between the gorgeous cover art by Natasha MacKenzie and the stellar reviews and social media hype, I couldn’t order this book fast enough. It promised a gorgeous, atmospheric, spooky adventure with magic and monsters and teen angst aplenty – ticking pretty much all of my boxes.

For the most part, it delivered on those promises. The setting and atmosphere of Four Paths is so thoughtfully laid out you could be forgiven for thinking it was a real place. The imagery is so beautiful and vivid that you can practically see these forests as if you’re in them, or have visited them before.

As a result of this careful and exquisite worldbuilding, however, the plot does take some time to get going. This wasn’t a problem at all – like a slow hike where you can take in all the wonderful scenery around you instead of a 5k run – but it wasn’t what I had expected. I had already laced up my running shoes when I should have worn walking boots. I therefore found the slow, ambling pace somewhat jarring and frustrating, but on reflection it was quite lovely, and sets everything up for a brilliant conclusion in The Deck of Omens.

That’s the other thing – when I read The Devouring Gray, I did not realise it was the first part of a duology! I was expecting huge monster fights and loads of exposure to the Gray and its lurking Beast but those elements were more subdued than I had expected. This left me feeling a little bit disappointed and wanting more, but when I found out there was a second part to the story, it all clicked. I’m confident that The Deck of Omens will finish everything that The Devouring Gray started in a spectacular conclusion.

I can’t just gloss over the cover art on this book. It is STUNNING. I am so glad I live in the UK because this edition’s cover is just beyond gorgeous. Not to mention the pink sprayed edges! Lord knows I am a sucker for a sprayed edge.

Devouring Gray sprayed edges
Image from Waterstones.com, showing off those fantastic sprayed edges

I had heard that this book had some LGBT+ representation but I did not anticipate how well it would be done, and how much of it there would be! Loads of characters are bisexual, which is awesome because there’s a huge lack of positive bi representation in mainstream media. Even some of the parents in the story are LGBT+, which is something you don’t often see in YA, so that was great to see.

The Devouring Gray was a lovely, atmospheric debut and I’m super excited to read The Deck of Omens – I’ve already pre-ordered it (with beautiful blue sprayed edges to match, hooray!). Christine Lynn Herman is definitely one to watch.

TL;DR – The Devouring Gray is like a better, more magical Riverdale. It didn’t do everything I had expected or hoped it would do, but The Deck of Omens might.

You can order The Devouring Gray here

…and pre-order The Deck of Omens here!

 

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