The Devouring Gray: Review
Hi everyone! Today, I’m jumping right into my review of The Devouring Gray, by Christine Lynn Herman. I instantly connected with the author, because she was born in New York City, but grew up overseas in Hong Kong and Japan, only to return back to the US for college at the University of Rochester, where I recently moved! Note: I received an e-galley to review from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening…
Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.
When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?
The Devouring Gray is set in a small town in upstate New York and straight away, I connected to the setting. I recently moved upstate to Rochester, and I could picture the town of Four Paths pretty vividly. My personal experience worked out to my favor because otherwise, I think I would have been utterly lost. While there are major landmarks around Four Paths that we visit along with the four main characters, there’s little else that grounds the reader to the setting. There’s a lot of running back and forth between the same few locations and I can’t quite understand the scope of Four Paths and the destruction that the Beast causes.
Right away, we’re introduced to the fact that the town’s founders are very special, and their descendants share a sacred responsibility to protect the town. What didn’t click with me throughout the book was the effect that the destruction was having on the town’s “normal” residents- people who weren’t burdened with the heavy responsibility of protecting the town. What was their stake in this whole thing? Their purpose? I felt that The Devouring Gray focused too much on the founders’ descendants and their plights- and there was a huge missed opportunity to add dimension to these powerful beings by drawing a parallel to a “regular” person in Four Paths.
I should mention that I think The Devouring Gray is a bit more suited as a Middle Grade-level book. For me, the pacing was way too slow. There were a lot of passages going through everyday motions that I didn’t feel added too much value to the book- a lot of that “telling,” rather than “showing. But if the intention of the book was for younger readers, then I think these passages might actually help the younger reader relate to the main characters. They may be strangely powerful with mysterious abilities, but they eat breakfast just like normal high school students!
Overall, I think The Devouring Gray had a fantastic concept. I’ve read reviews comparing it to Stranger Things or Riverdale, and I can see how these parallels can be drawn. It’s a little creepy (and totally has room to be even creepier) with interesting folklore. I didn’t speak too much about the main characters because I don’t want to give too much away, but all four of them are very compelling and I wished we’d had more time with each of them. Their relationships are deep and complex and Herman does a great job in managing the tangled threads weaved throughout the history of Four Paths and the four founders’ families.