We’ve all been there. You’re looking to take a book out of the library and then, whoops, you’ve accidentally summoned the devil. That’s the basic premise of The Devil Makes Three, a standalone YA horror novel from Titan Books that marks out debut author Tori Bovalino as a writer who demands your attention.
Tess Matheson and Eliot Birch are two very different kids who just happen to attend the same school - Falk Academy, a swanky boarding school in Pennsylvania. But the pair are thrown together when they discover a creepy old tome in Falk’s library and with it release what very well could be the actual, bonafide devil into the world - and he’ll rain death and destruction upon their lives and everyone they care about until his freedom is secured.
Some readers may go into this expecting only lightweight horror, due to its teen-focused nature, but with demonic possession, nightmarish hallucinations, and walking decomposing corpses, which are described in visceral, bleurgh-inducing detail, Bovalino doesn’t just pay lip service to the genre but fully embraces it. The author’s depiction of the Devil himself is an intriguing one - less Lucifer, not so much Satan, but more of a reflection of Tess’ own darkest fears and most selfish desires.
Speaking of, Tess and Eliot make for a terrific pair of leads. While Tess is spiky, standoffish, and hard-working, only at Falk thanks to a scholarship, Eliot is a young English gent, the entitled but endearing son of the school’s principal. Their burgeoning romance could become cloying in lesser hands but Bovalino ensures the pair are portrayed as three dimensional, complicated people, with serious emotional hang-ups, who were both in need of saving even before the Devil got loose.
The Devil Makes Three is perfect for lovers of what’s called the “dark academia” sub-genre, as it’s positively drowning in descriptions of its eerie library setting, with its cursed grimoires and secret passageways and all kinds of evil lurking in between the shelves. If the spell of the rich gothic atmosphere doesn’t reel you in then you may find this mood and character-driven piece thin on plot. But if it does, then you’ll find the story’s claws hooked into you until you reach its gripping, chilling conclusion.
THE DEVIL MAKES THREE is released on September 14th from Titan Books