Hellraisers (The Devil’s Engine #1)
by Alexander Gordon Smith
Expected Publish Date: December 1, 2015
I downloaded this ARC from NetGalley during a Halloween give away. It’s a YA book by Alexander Gordon Smith, who is not an author I’ve read before. Apparently he’s a pretty well known YA horror writer, with two series that look finished (maybe?) called Escape from Furnace and The Fury. Both series sound good and have ended up on my “To Read Eventually” list.
Hellraisers is his newest series, which I’m guessing will be no more than two or three books in total. A good bit happens in the first book. It’s like a back story book — like how the superhero became the superhero story. An Origin story, I guess. It didn’t scare me as much as I thought it would, especially for a book that advertises being the Stephen King of YA literature (I’m also not a huge Stephen King fan, though I have the upmost respect for the man.) In fact, I may let my brother read it is he wants. There isn’t any language really, and maybe he can be the judge of how scary it is.
So what’s the book about?
The book is told from two point of views — Marlow, a 16 year old asthmatic kid with a difficult life and Pan, a somewhat older female (I think 17 or 18?) who is already fighting to save the world with the help of the Devil’s Engine. The Devil’s Engine is a machine older than anything else, concealed in an impossible location, found during World War II. The machine has the ability to grant any kind of wish, and the small price to pay is your soul.
Sounds super Faustian, right?
Marlow gets mixd up in the war between two groups with two Devil’s Engines after accidentally getting in the middle of a battle. One of the groups is trying to save the world, while the other group is trying to bring literal hell on earth. Both believe they are fighting for the right cause. Pan is already a warrior in the battle, who at the beginning of the story is dealing with the end of a Faustian contract.
How is the book?
My first instinct was to put this book down at page one. A book clearly about Faustian bargains, and the main character is named Marlow?
I am glad I stuck with it though. It is even addressed in the book how it’s silly that he, Marlow, got roped into a Faustian deal possibility. The action portions of this book are great, but there seemed to be a lack of character development outside of that. There are so many characters with backstories that just kind of get glossed over or not discussed. Marlow and Pan have some development, sure, but not enough that I would have felt bad if either of them died. But the action scenes are really great and dark.
I loved the description of the Devil’s Engine. It’s not an easy task to undertake (as it shouldn’t be) and it sounds appropriately terrifying and difficult. I also enjoyed the “Lawyers” — those people that are working to break the Faustian contracts before their time runs out (which is 666 hours, or roughly 27 days). You can wish for anything, but not everything is going to come out right, and not everything is easily broken.
I think I’ll leave my horror reading for the adult genre — I haven’t had much luck in the YA section. But this book was a pretty good attempt, and I think will entertain younger audiences. I’ll definitely pick up the second one to see the conclusion (I hope?)