One of the saddest feelings a bookworm can experience is when a very anticipated release becomes on of your least favourite books.
And that’s precisely what happened with The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman. This was pitched as perfect for fans of Stranger Things & The Raven Boys. I LOVE BOTH OF THOSE THINGS PASSIONATELY. The dark mysterious wood vibe and a group of friends with messy characters and magic? My aesthetic!!
When the publisher sent me over a gorgeous physical ARC with pink sprayed edges and tarot cards, I was positive I was going to ADORE this book.
Thank you to Titan Books for sending me review copy. All opinions are my own.
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.
*SLAMS FISTS ON TABLE* here’s the tea y’all. I was not entertained at any point in this book – I was the epitome of the straight faced emoji. Here’s why.
#1 THE CHARACTERS WERE DRY AND UNDERDEVELOPED
These characters had the potential to be something intriguing but that was all wasted by constant POV jumping and underdeveloped personalities. It’s like the author wrote down four names and assigned an adjective to each of them and then thought “Okay. I’ve crafted my characters!”.
I couldn’t connect to any of the characters. I feel like we had quite a big cast and none of them seemed particularly fleshed out or real.
- Violet – All I can remember about Violet is that she is skinny and all “sharp edges” or something? Honestly, she was sooo boring. Like her character was just being blunt and stupid.
- Justin – this guy was trying to be Edgy and i didn’t hate him because that would suggest I gave one crap about this book or characters. Still, he was just so Eh. His whole tragic backstory – “ooh i don’t have powers” – was so eye-roll worthy.
- Isaac – okay this is the only guy I’m remotely interested in…We didn’t get a lot of him in this book but I was like “Oh snap I want to read more about him!!” but it’s only a mild interest.
- Harper – she’s so whiny and dramatic. I hated her whole story and motive?? It was so pathetic. “oh no my best friend left me!” i hate characters who are just so driven by their emotions they don’t even have one brain cell to look at the situation logically!!!
- May – Idk she’s not like a main character but she was cool, I guess. She didn’t really have a character apart from reading tarot cards?? see, this is what i mean.
- Harper’s mum – I forgot her name but I’m more interested in the original founders’ story than their children.
I feel like if we spent more time getting to know the characters instead of jumping around POV to get across a quite boring plot, I would have been able to connect or sympathise with the people in this book. But, we didn’t. And I feel like I could’ve loved some of the character’s backstory here, but the execution was sigh-inducing.
#2 EVERYTHING FELT OVER DRAMATIC AND PATHETIC
Without getting too specific, there’s this scene where Harper and Violet talk and Harper tells violet that these people were horrible to her. Then Violet’s like “Omg I can’t believe they would do that to you? and is all sympathetic and then refuses these peoples help because they hurt Harper, a girl she just met. and she decides so quickly like “oh you just told me a story that i don’t even know’s true but i’m so effing great, i’m going to immediately shut these people out of my life without knowing the full story but it’s cool because girls supporting girls!!” and i was like “binch?? you literally need those people’s help? why do you think you’re so bad ass when you’re literally useless on your own?? you’re trying to be cool and nice to some girl you just met?? are u okay??” honestly my whole reaction to this scene was
and then Violet ends up accepting their help anyways.
Also Harper and Justin are set up to have this Angsty romance (TM) and it frustrated me so much. At the point where I was introduced to this, I was already so bored that I desperately thought “maybe some romance will spice things up!” but, no. Idk what this was but it was trying so hard to be “I want to be with you but I don’t want to be with you” and it was so poorly done because the character’s motives for not wanting each other are so pathetic and dumb?? jhdgsf.
#3 CREEPY ATMOSPHERE? I DON’T KNOW HER.
This was compared to Stranger Things and honestly, how dare. Stranger Things is a creepy story that centres around themes of friendship and grief, whilst also incorporating terrifying monsters and a deliciously eerie backdrop. But this? HELL NAH. The only slight aspect that could relate to it is the monster/creature thing. The monster in this book had potential, but it went to waste. We hardly ever SEE the beast in this book and when the book does discuss it, it wasn’t terrifying in the least.
Look, creepy vibes are what I LOVE in books. The Raven Boys, Stranger Things, The Accident Season – these all have delightfully murderous atmospheres that are wonderfully crafted. But this? I didn’t even feel scared once. Or feel chills at anything. Like, this world just seems so grey (#puns) and boring. I acknowledge this is contemp fantasy so it relies on the real world with magical aspects, but the whole dark and sinister setting was not there for me.
#4 I JUST DIDN’T… CLICK WITH THE STORY
I felt no adrenaline or excitement whilst reading. It was like “oh. this happened. thank u, next.” I feel like exciting things were happening but from the dry writing to the flat characters, I was stopped from even feeling a little bit of interest in the story.
In the end, this just wasn’t for me. Maybe I read this at the wrong time or the blurb mislead to me think I was in for an epic mystery when there was none of that, but I was never invested in the characters or plot. The writing seemed really stale and boring, nothing unique or intriguing. This book just did nothing for me and I genuinely didn’t enjoy my experience. 🙂
rep: two bisexual characters, a character with missing arm.
content/trigger warnings: loss of a loved one, murder, grief and trauma depictions, violence, abandonment, talk of rituals and self-sacrifice, and assault.
Name a recent release that did not live up to the hype for you? Have you ever read a book with a character that just didn’t make sense or annoyed you? Is The Devouring Gray on your TBR? Do you love Stranger Things?