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The Devouring Gray | Christine Lynn Herman | Review

Branches and stones, daggers and bones, they locked the Beast away.

Four Paths is a town steeped in secrecy, where the families of the four town founders are both revered as gods and expected to protect the rest of the town from the beast their ancestors trapped in the Gray, a dark dimension made to imprison it. In order to help them with their duties, each member of the founding families must undergo a ritual, which, when passed successfully, allows them to access and control special powers passed down through their families, powers meant to keep the beast and the Gray under control. 

When Violet Saunders and her mother, Juniper, move to Juniper's childhood hometown, following the death of Violet's sister, Rosie, Violet knows nothing about Four Paths, least of all that she is a member of one of those founding families. Nevertheless, now that she is in Four Paths, Violet's powers begin to manifest themselves in ways that may cause more harm than good. It is vital that Violet complete her family's ritual and gain control of her powers before something truly terrible happens, but the rituals are kept a secret, known only by the individual families, and, although Violet's new friends promise to help her figure out what her ritual is, neither Juniper or Violet's aunt, the only other Saunders left in Four Paths, remember anything about it. While Violet tries to figure out the secret to controlling her powers, the beast in the Gray is getting stronger, and Violet may be the only one who can stop it.

The Devouring Gray is told from multiple points of view. The first, of course, is Violet, who finds more secrets than she ever could have expected in Four Paths. Next is Justin, the town's golden boy, who has to keep a huge secret for the sake of his family's image. Then Harper, who was Justin's best friend until she failed her ritual, resulting in days spent lost in the Gray and the loss of an arm from the elbow down. Finally, we have Isaac, the angry son of the fourth founding family, and the last one left in Four Paths after a tragic accident occurred during his own ritual. All four teenagers provide a different view of Four Paths and the many secrets it keeps, and the different sides of what it means to be part of a founding family, which weave together to present an intriguing whole.

The Devouring Gray has been compared to a few TV shows, Stranger Things and Riverdale to name just two, and much of this is thanks to the atmosphere Herman creates and the large cast of characters. Personally, I would compare it to the show Teen Wolf, but with less romance. In fact, unusually for these sort of stories, the threat ever present in the town does not leave much time for any romance at all, although it is hinted at, and I expect there is more to come. This is an enjoyable contemporary fantasy, with a lot to recommend it, but I found myself wanting more of everything. More of the history of Four Paths, more of the threat the beast poses, more of each of the main group of characters. As this is the first in a planned series, there likely will be more of all of these things, but it is a shame there wasn't more room for them here. Even so, if you're looking for a slightly spooky, fast-paced, paranormal story, this one is certainly worth a read. I'll definitely be picking up the next in the series when it comes out.

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