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.
Warnings: parental abuse, death of loved one and grief
The Devouring Gray establishes a eerie supernatural mystery in a town where the founding families bound themselves to a creature and keep it contained generation after generation. Told through five teens from each of the four founding families, the story begins when Violet and her mother return to the latter’s hometown to care for her sister, and Violet gets entangled in the town’s politics and the magic of the Gray. Her coming to the town happens during a time of increasing attacks from the Gray, and the family holding the current power, Hawthorne, sees her involvement as being significant to the Gray. Justin’s and May’s mother Augusta, who is the sheriff, sees Violet as an unpredictable element and warns them away from her, but they feel she may have something to do with helping the situation, so they approach her quietly. Meanwhile, Harper’s father (the Carlyles) has asked her to befriend the newcomer, in a plan to take down the Hawthornes; as she has plenty against them, she is all too willing to do so. Finally, there’s Isaac, Justin’s best friend, and member of the fourth family, who have abandoned him since he came into his powers.
The story is slow-paced, and takes a while to really bring in the danger, but until then it creates an atmosphere of dread and uncertainty. Violet’s grief and her magic coincide in a way that makes it difficult for her to realize that she has been called by the Gray. She has to figure out her family’s ritual (a secret rite of passage unique to each family) to be a full-fledged member of the town’s founding families; since she doesn’t know much history about the town, she has both Harper and the Hawthorne siblings vying to help her. She, however, is quite skeptical of the town’s reverence towards the founding families and prefers Harper’s company over theirs. All the teens are trying to uncover a way to fight the Gray’s increasing malevolence, while also fending off a part of the people’s dissent against them. Between the supernatural powers, and the town’s history with magic, the plot makes for an interesting story of buried secrets, differing attitudes towards legacy, and dysfunctional families. Along with the writing, the audiobook narrator, Sarah Beth Goer, does a fantastic job bringing out the complexities in the characterizations and the relationships between the teens. I was especially spooked out by the founders’ rhyme, which when sung is quite eerie!
Overall, it is a fantastic start to a supernatural series, and I am eager for The Deck of Omens!
Is it diverse? bisexual main characters; disabled characters; queer parents as secondary characters