By Charlotte McIntyre
Set in the mysterious town of Four Paths, the Devouring Gray follows a group of teenagers descended from the town’s founders, as they try to unravel their family’s secrets and fight back against the murderous beast that’s haunting the woods.
The Devouring Gray has everything you would expect from a YA novel. Family feuds, supernatural powers, secrets, lies, angst, and more than a little sexual tension between characters. At points, this combination of winning tactics delivers in satisfying fashion. The plot is well-paced, and Herman makes the jump between several POVs with relative ease. For the most part, each character’s voice is strong, placing you firmly at the centre of the action and seamlessly knitting the story together as you make your way through the pages.
However, one of the book’s biggest challenges is the sheer amount of exposition required. To understand the conflict between the Founding Families, Herman sets herself the mammoth task of explaining what happened years ago using flashbacks or stories told by family members and townspeople. Unfortunately, this way of doing it doesn’t always hit the mark. The sheer glut of narrative exposition is clunky at points and unnatural in others. It feels more like you’re being told rather than shown. But Herman does do well to keep the pace moving forwards despite the amount of storytelling and ‘filling in the gaps’ that goes on.
For me, out of the four main characters (Justin, Violet, Harper, and Isaac), Harper and Isaac are the most complex and well-executed. Unrequited love tropes aside (we’ll get to that), the two of them simmer with a delicious kind of rage and fury that makes you root for them no matter what. Herman does a fantastic job of making you feel outraged on their behalf, and their backstories are by far the most compelling. The only thing that sullies this somewhat is the author’s dogged determination to give each character a romantic interest. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good love story. But the way it is shoehorned into every character’s arc grates a little.
Overall, this is a well-written debut novel. And I will most probably read the sequel to it. There’s just the right amount of mystery and intrigue throughout to keep your interest piqued, and the characters are (for the most part) engaging and complex enough to keep you plodding along. Yes, I would have liked for a little more character development, and a little more time and thought given to how the exposition is navigated, but the moody setting and momentum of the plot propels it to a satisfying (if not cliched) conclusion.
The Devouring Gray is available now in Paperback and Amazon Kindle.