The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino

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The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Amber Wells
Reviewed by Amber Wells
Summary: Perfect for fans of the dark academia aesthetic with a healthy dollop of spine-tingling horror.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: September 2021
Publisher: Titan
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1789098136

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Working all summer in her boarding school's library is the last thing Tess Matheson wants to do — especially when she gets a request for over a hundred books that she has to deliver herself. What makes it worse is the man who requested the books: Mr Birch. The boarding school's headmaster, and a man Tess hates. As a petty act of revenge for making her find and deliver such a large request, Tess sticks post-it notes on each of the books, scribbled with the ugliest insults she can think of. They're never meant to reach him, of course. Her plan is to get her anger out like this, and then take them all off before delivering them. No harm done… Or it would be, if someone hadn't delivered them for her.

A stunt like this is something that will definitely get Tess expelled, and so it's lucky for her that the books end up being delivered to his son: Elliot Birch. A boy that hates his father just as much as Tess does. After a bargain with Elliot to keep the incident between the two of them, Tess takes him to the restricted area of the library to find a grimoire that might have the answers to all of his problems. Unfortunately for them, they accidentally release a demon that will stop at nothing to stay free. And so the two have to figure out how to bind him again before they see just how evil the demon is willing to be.

I really enjoyed how small the cast of characters was in this novel. Whilst Tess and Eliot both had friends that were mentioned (just to make it clear that they weren't complete loners), the book didn't spend much time building up their relationships with them. Some may call this a weakness – as under developed side characters usually makes things seem flat. However, I would disagree in this case because the story works much better through focusing solely on the two main characters. Instead of having lots of characters that have little involvement with the quest but are still present, the focus is on Tess and Eliot. This meant that we really dived into all of their reasonings for their reactions, which gave us a better understanding about what they are like as people.

Another small thing that I really appreciated in this novel was how Eliot was the "witch". When someone uses the term "witch", the usual imagery associated with that word is women using dark magic; it has very feminine connotations due to its deep roots in our history with witches, and many witches we see in different types of media today are usually female. However, this novel doesn't bat an eyelid at reversing the gender norms by making the male lead the witch, and the female lead a regular human. I will admit that I was caught off guard by this at first because I don't think I've ever seen this in YA before, but it was a nice surprise that I wanted to point out.

Dark academia novels are also super trendy right now, but the horror aspects in this book definitely gave it that slight edge that made it a bit different and grittier than the other ones that have recently been released. The imagery of blood and ink is often used interchangeably throughout the novel, which amped up the tension and made things even more suspenseful in most situations. Characters would see a dark substance pouring from the bookshelves and that question of whether it was ink or blood pouring from the bookshelves, and this always kept me on the edge of my seat as they figured it out.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The characters were great and the creepy atmosphere was wonderfully chilling. If you enjoyed it too and want further recommendations, I would highly suggest The Last Girl by Goldy Moldavsky

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