(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Title: The Demon’s Grave
Author: E.M. MacCallum
Length: 392 pages
Publication: May 2015 by Smashwords Edition
Note: Xpresso Book Tours sent me this e-book via Netgalley for free in exchange for my honest review.
When strange shadows and messages plague Nora’s daily life she fears for her sanity. To escape questions from her family, Nora joins her friends on a weekend getaway. Despite not liking Aidan Birket, Nora finds his remote, Victorian house charming. Until they discover the marble doorway on the third floor and, against Nora’s better judgment, they open it.
Drawn into an unfamiliar place called the Demon’s Grave, the group face a charismatic demon and a set of Challenges. Six nightmarish realities for the six of them is the punishment. Those that make it to the end can go home, but those that don’t will be his forever. Friendships are tested, secrets revealed and sacrifices will be made.
Nora battles zombies, doppelgängers, eyeless bikers, and the demon–whose interests are more than just a game of cat and mouse. If it’s all in her head, then it should be easy. But, if not, it means the demon knows everything and her past and the death of her twin sister.
‘The Demon’s Grave’ is written in first person past with limited point of view. The narrator of the story is high-school student Nora. Though, her particular point of view of the story is unique to that of the other characters given the events from her past.
Pacing: The pacing of the beginning of the novel worked well because little tidbits were dropped in the first few chapters to draw the reader in and make them start asking questions. This carried through a good portion of the book, but the pacing started to teeter near the end. It was obvious that plenty still needed to be completed before the end of the book, but the book felt like it should have been over already. In other words, the last third of the book dragged on.
World: The world adapts to the characters being put into it. It allows direct interactions with each character to show their strengths and weaknesses. However, it also seemed to lack imagination. There were parts of the world that were intriguing and yet the author does little to explain them, which makes the world feel under-developed.
Writing: At times the writing lacked clarity. There are certain scenes that don’t appropriately describe the scenery. As a result, some of the interactions were difficult to imagine and follow, making parts of the book a struggle to understand.
Non-Spoilered Plot: All Nora wanted was a routine weekend camping with her friends, but when their destination changes and curiosity drives them to open a portal into a demon world, the weekend turns into anything but routine. If they want to make it out alive, Nora and her friends must face their worst nightmares, reveal their darkest secrets, and see if their friendships can withstand this test. Yet, even then, some of them may not make it out alive.
Note: This book contains triggers.
Character: High-school student Nora’s perspective of the world is warped by the events that transpired when she was a child. They’ve made her quiet, reserved, and cautious. They also make it difficult for her to determine reality from insanity.
Only with the help of her friends does she realize the horrors around her are actually happening. Yet, that makes her more of a coward than when she believed she was in an illusion, but the only way to pass the challenges and save her friends is to face those fears. Unfortunately, she does so by arbitrarily speaking to the reader as a form of comic relief.
Plot: The main plot of this story is Voyage and Return because Nora and her friends travel through a portal to a demon world and return with nothing more than their increase knowledge. Though, not all of her friends make it home. The demon ends up stealing them because they broke rules which were never clearly defined to them, making it curious how they didn’t all end up stuck in the demon world.
Most of the book can be summed up to childlike foolish. While most people wouldn’t take nightmares as bad omens, a dilapidated attic with ominous prose on the wall, two creepy chairs, a tiny blue door should’ve been sign enough to walk away. If that weren’t enough, Cody and Nora end up being practically paralyzed as the demon’s way to turn them away. Yet, they ignore their suffering friends and open the door anyway.
From there, their only option is to enter the portal and face the challenges because the alternative is death. Some of the challenges are deadly and haunting: a murderous man trying to kill and rape Nora(he doesn’t succeed). Yet, the others seem childish: fear of spiders and escaping from a house filling with water. In these less-threatening scenarios, the scenes are dragged out as a means to give them suspense, but rather makes them dull and tiresome.
The hardest part to understand about the book was when the challenges began and ended. The ‘clearance’ to another challenge was a tiny black door. Yet, it seemed as though the group walked through a dozen doors or more, but only half of them led them to another challenge. Thus, it was quite difficult to determine when some of the challenges ended and when the others began.
While the book had an interesting concept and the characters were well written, many of the scenes didn’t come across as clearly as they could have. With that being said, I leave my rating of this book at three stars.