Title: The Devil Makes Three
Author: Tori Bovalino
Publication date: August 20th 2021
Age-range/genre: Young Adult; Horror, Thriller, Urban Fantasy.
Trigger warnings: death, blood, child abuse, verbal abuse, references to terminal illness.
Rating: 4/5 stars
The devil seeks his due from two unsuspecting students in this YA horror novel for fans of The Library of the Unwritten and VE Schwab.
When Tess and Eliot stumble upon an ancient book hidden in a secret tunnel beneath their school library, they accidentally release a devil from his book-bound prison, and he’ll stop at nothing to stay free. He’ll manipulate all the ink in the library books to do his bidding, he’ll murder in the stacks, and he’ll bleed into every inch of Tess’s life until his freedom is permanent. Forced to work together, Tess and Eliot have to find a way to re-trap the devil before he kills everyone they know and love, including, increasingly, each other. And compared to what the devil has in store for them, school stress suddenly doesn’t seem so bad after all…
recommended for: fans of dark academia, haunted libraries, meet-uglies to reluctant allies, and YA horror.
The Devil Makes Three is an impressive YA horror novel that mixes my favourite things, magic and dark academia and horror. It’s hard to consider this a debut because it truly exceeded my expectations in an engaging plot and wonderfully creepy atmosphere, making it a superb horror novel.
The main setting for this is the Jessop library – and, as a book lover, I was so happy to see – which some say to be haunted. Indeed, the library has some books that are pretty strange, which is why Eliot is so determined to find a grimoire to help heal his mother, even if doing so puts Tessa, who just wants to work quietly at the library, at risk of losing her job.
The last thing either of them need is to suddenly have to deal with the devil they’ve accidentally released, and the repercussions of this.
I think anyone who’s a bookworm who grew up spending their free time in the library would love the setting for this. I mean, the idea that there is a secret place in the library with restricted books? Sounds cool and creepy, count me in.
Something here was changing. Shifting. Waking up.
• plot and pacing •
The first quarter of the book is somewhat slow, as it focuses on introducing the characters and the setting, but once the Grimoire was used then all hell broke loose (haha). It then became very high-action, and the fact that the chapters are very short added to the intensity and helped the story flow very well.
Bovalino excels in balancing both character development and plot in the story, to make it an overall atmospheric and creepy read. Truly, I believe thrillers can’t succeed in their genre if you don’t care for the characters, and a really good horror is able to consider character ideals to really emphasise the horror.
Sure, I do love a good slasher film/book, but I also love fiction that plays on our deepest fears and desires to illicit true horror about human insecurities, and that is something I enjoyed about the novel.
Let me tell you my secrets, the book whispered inside of her. Let me give you what you desire …
• exploration of horror •
At its core, this is a horror novel. There are magical elements, as Eliot is a witch, as is his mother and other family friends, but this is only a facet of the story that revolves around the horror that is the Devil that Eliot and Tess accidentally release. I was happy to see that the novel wasn’t overpacked with magic and fantasy, making it easier to focus on the uneasy atmosphere created.
Likewise, there is dark academia to this novel because of its boarding school backdrop, but it lacks the regular atmosphere of DA novels as it takes place over summertime. However, for me that only added to the tension, because empty libraries and empty schools just ooze feelings of disquiet. Likewise, the aspect of haunted books with a monster lurking within the pages is just peak dark academia and horror, is it not?
Bovalino also utilises vivid imagery and the description of the blood and ink and gore to add to the horror – I could easily picture it as if it was a horror movie. The addition of bleeding ink in a library only added to the atmosphere. Altogether it created so much tension and anticipation which had me flying through the pages to find out how it would all end.
Tess Matheson didn’t take shit from him, or anyone else.
• characters & romance •
Our main characters Tess and Eliot are teenagers with the weight of the world on their shoulders, dealing with a lot of burdens related to their family. They have cold exteriors, Tess especially, but are such empathetic and passionate characters that you can’t help but care for them.
I will admit that most times I don’t care for the romantic aspects in thrillers, but this time I surprisingly enjoyed it. It’s not overwrought and forced. There was well-thought out pacing and focus on both the main plot and the blossoming bond between the two characters. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed seeing two characters who initially dislike each other (I’m a sucker for a meet-ugly in novels) and then have to work together to defeat something, especially something as heinous as a demonic presence.
Another reason I enjoyed it is likely because of the dual perspectives. Not only can you clearly see the differences between Eliot and Tess, you also are able to explore more of their thoughts and opinions about things including each other. Family is incredibly important to both Eliot and Tess – they both have certain family members that they so desperately want to protect (Eliot with his mother, Tess with her sister). It’s so lonely having such a burden like that so young, so it made me happy to see them being able to be vulnerable to each other about it. For a horror novel, it did also have it’s sweet comforting moments.
(I have to add that their dynamic reminded me a lot of Blue and Gansey from The Raven Cycle, a couple that I adore. I really saw a lot of similarities between Tess and Eliot with Blue and Gansey – such as their initial meet-ugly and bad first impressions, their different class backgrounds, passionate work ethics, and their fierce loyalty to the people they care about.)
Overall, this was such a great novel to read. I really appreciate that the novel was able to focus on both familial and romantic relationships while also delving into the horror and magic in the story. I found them both to be balanced and interesting plot points, making for an all around interesting novel, that had me intrigued from beginning to end.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free eARC for this novel.
Links for The Devil Makes Three: