Title: The Devouring Gray (The Devouring Gray #1)
Author: Christine Lynn Herman (Debut)
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal/LGBT
Release Date: April 2nd 2019 from Disney-Hyperion
Format: Library audio book
Narrator: Sarah Beth Goer
Listening Time: 10 hours, 2 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: Branches and stones, daggers and bones,
They locked the Beast away.
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.
To be honest, this book wasn’t on my radar when all the hype was going around for it. While I loved the cover, this was a case where the hype turned me off for a while. But then, an inkling of wanting to read a book with a creepy setting started coming to me. So when the audio book was available on Overdrive, I started it on an evening where I had lots of free time. There’s a little lullaby intro that the narrator herself created called “The Founder’s Lullaby” and it was a fantastic little intro and outro to the audio book. It really sets the tone for the story I was going to hear. Overall, this is a solid debut and I liked it more than I expected. For the first half of the book, it was entertaining enough that I didn’t want to DNF it, but I didn’t care for the characters and the plot was too slow moving for me. But in the end, it got better like I had hoped and I will read the sequel.
The first pro that I liked was the idea of these founding families trying to contain the Beast. The Hawthornes, the Carlisles, the Saunders and the Sullivan families have a rich history with this town and each teen when they become of age have to undergo a ritual to awaken their powers. The powers vary in our four main characters and they use these powers to contain the Beast within the Gray. While I do think there was a bit too much “political intrigue” with all the founding families, rumors and some acting like they were superior, I still liked the idea overall. Once the story really got going in the last half, we learn some interesting things about the Gray and how this city became its prison.
The next pro was the Beast itself. Whenever the Beast was in any scenes, it was a creepy unknown thing that did make me a bit nervous at times. The author did such a great job to develop the beast as a mysterious entity and that it presented interesting questions as to why it’s there in the first place and what it really wants. I won’t say much more than that without spoilers, but I loved any of the darker scenes when it came in contact with the characters and I’m very interested to see how the Beast will play a role in the sequel.
The final pro that I have is some of the themes in the book about finding your own strength, confronting familial expectations that are wrong and learning the truth about people. Even though Harper hates Justin for what he did and how some of the adults treat Violet like a prize and even Violet feels frustrated about her family and all that’s going down in Four Paths, they do learn things about each other. The growing friendship dynamic between the Isaac Sullivan, Violet Saunders, Harper Carlisle and Justin Hawthorne was an honest look at how you can be friends with those who may have hurt you or people you thought were jerks. It felt super realistic with how they can forgive something one character did, but still keep their distance in order to not get hurt again. But they also prove the expectations that are put on them and that helps open the eyes of those who suspect or look down upon them. There’s some great moments in character conversations about running away, facing loss and how you can accept someone’s apology but not forget what happened.
But my first con was the narrator. While her voice did kinda fit the story, I don’t she did a great job. Most of her voice was flat and her male voices weren’t very good. She sounded bored during the whole production, so when I continue with the series, I might not do it on audio. She was okay enough that I finished it, but I would recommend listening to a sample of her narration to see if it works for your.
The next con is the pacing! For at least half the book, it was a weak 3 stars because I didn’t care for the characters. None of them are really “good people” and most of it just felt like petty games and gossip and the mystery of Violet’s role in the town and the Gray seemed on the back burner until the last quarter of the book. There was also too much “political intrigue” between the families and I think it could’ve maybe been condensed to help the story along. While learning some of the family responsibilities, some information did feel like it was repeated a lot.
The final con I had was I wanted the Beast to be in the book more! The cover of this book is very spooky and gorgeous, but the slower pacing and sort of lack of the creepy moments did make it feel somewhat underwhelming. While the moments with the Beast were the best parts, they did feel kinda quick and when they were over, I was bummed to keep waiting for the next scenes to keep moving the story along. I do think that the Beast could play a bigger role in the sequel, but I did want a little more.
Overall: This was an entertaining book with a stunning cover, but the slow pacing, petty attitudes taking over the creep factor and the lack of creepy stuff made it a good, but not great book. I’m glad that I finally saw what the hype was about, but I have read some better debut novels that have more creepy moments. I will try the sequel, but it’s not high on my radar for next year.
Rating: .5 stars
Audio Book Narrator:
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? What were your favorite parts of the book? Let me know in the comments!