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Series Review & Giveaway: The Devouring & Soulstice by Simon Holt

I happen to love horror. I love the thrill of mortal fear, the rush of terror that washes over you and drowns your logical mind, the giddy and jittery sense of having experienced something truly terrifying. Ever since I was a little kid and my dad let me watch my very first Tales from the Crypt episode with him, I have been hooked on the genre, so much so that I will go to the theater by myself to make sure I have seen the latest crap horror movie in desperate hope that despite all appearances to the contrary, it could be good (more often than not this leads to incredible disappointment. I’m looking at you Orphan). But no matter how much I might whine about the quality of big budget horror films today, I usually have much better luck in the literature department. With less money-making restraints than million dollar budget studio pics, horror lit always feels like coming home.

And why should adults have all the good thrills? There are a number of fabulous YA horror novels that I cherished as a kid (see how I bullied gently persuaded Ana to read one of my favorite authors, Christopher Pike, this month with her review of Monster), and I’ve been sadly out of touch with some newer YA horror authors.

So, when I caught wind of a new YA horror series featuring some nasty fear-eating monsters I had to check out the series for myself…

**********

The DEVOURING SERIES by Simon Holt

Genre: Horror, Young Adult

Stand alone or series: Currently a two book series, with a planned third novel in the works.

The Devouring (Book 1)

Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers (US) / Puffin (UK)
Publication Date: September 2008 (US) / October 2008 (UK)
Paperback: 256 pages

Summary: (from Amazon.com)
THE VOURS: Evil, demonic beings that inhabit human bodies on Sorry Night, the darkest hours of the winter solstice.

When Reggie reads about the Vours in a mysterious old journal, she assumes they are just the musings of an anonymous lunatic. But when her little brother, Henry, begins to act strangely, it’s clear that these creatures exist beyond a madwoman’s imagination, and Reggie finds out what happens when fears come to life.

To save the people she loves, Reggie must learn to survive in a world of nightmares. Can she devour her own fears before they devour her?

The Devouring is an engrossing tale of terror that will have you wondering: what if your worst fears became your living nightmare?

Review:

When dark creeps in and eats the light,
Bury your fears on Sorry Night.
For in the winter’s blackest hours,
Comes the feasting of the Vours,
No one can see it, the life they stole,
Your body’s here but not your soul…

On the eve of Sorry Night, the longest night of the year, fifteen-year old Reggie finds a strange journal at the horror specialty book store where she works. The journal, paranoid babblings of a madwoman about creatures called “Vours” is creepy and right up Reggie’s alley – so she borrows the book for closer perusal. That night, she and her best friend, the geeky, uber-smart and fellow horror nut Aaron fool around with some of the ideas in the journal while babysitting Reggie’s ten-year old brother Henry. Nothing happens to either Reggie or Aaron, but Henry starts to display some very odd behavior the next morning (of the usual demonic possession variety – animal torture, favorite toy destroying, familial manipulation, the works). Reggie must hurry and unravel the mystery of the Vours if she is to save her little brother from the monsters lurking just beneath the surface.

The Devouring is a hybrid of some classic ideas – there’s a little bit of the fear-feasting monster and strength of children to fight the ancient evil from Stephen King’s It, there’s a bit of the terror that comes from demonic possession a la Blatty’s Exorcist, and there’s a bit of the terror that comes with an angelic child committing atrocious acts (see The Omen, Pet Sematary, The Bad Seed, etc). But on the whole, Simon Holt manages to blend these ideas into a smart, delightfully scary little novel – one that I devoured (hardy har!) in a single sitting. The plot moves quickly, beginning with a mysterious, tattered journal but rapidly culminates in a monstrous invasion of the direst order. Reggie discovers the horrifying truth about the vours, just how far they have expanded into her world, and how desperately she must fight to save her beloved younger brother from his own personal hell.

As a heroine, Reggie doesn’t seem to stand out too much from the average. She’s smart, but not an outstanding scholar; she’s pretty, but not popular gal material; she has a crush on the local big man, but that’s to be expected. But Reggie is a good friend, a doting older sister, and has a wicked sensibility for dorky horror films and books. With her best friend Aaron, Reggie is pretty comfortable with her status in the social pecking order – which is pretty cool. By far, Reggie’s most endearing trait is to me as a reader was her care for her younger brother. As their mother left their father, she also left Reggie and Henry – and Reggie deals with this hurt in her own way, but also manages to comfort the feelings of pain and guilt this has caused her impressionable brother. Then, there’s poor Henry – one of the tough things about demonic possession-type storylines is the troubling feelings of fear and love for the possessed. In this case, it’s Henry who has been taken over by a Vour, and it’s hard to remember that underneath the cruelty of the monster, a young boy is trapped in his own mind, paralyzed by fear. Vour!Henry is truly the stuff of nightmares – there’s something inherently terrifying about little kids who do evil things, and this version of young Henry is a solid invocation. Then, there’s Aaron, the brilliant, supergeeky, loyal best friend to Reggie. The standard sidekick character, Aaron devotedly stands by Reggie and helps her uncover the truth about the Vours even though he’s not really much in the fighter or fearless department – still, his dedication to Reggie and his ability to try to face his fears is admirable, though he’s not exactly a truly fleshed out character. Rounding out the cast of characters, there’s (of course) the obligatory Van Helsing – Mr. Eben Bloch, Reggie’s employer, who has a secret of his own…

Characters aside, the thing that I think impressed me most with this novel was the air of ancient menace that Mr. Holt manages to create with the parallel story of the journal owner. When Reggie’s investigation takes her to an abandoned old farmhouse and she discovers the truth of the Vours – and what happens to the humans that are in contact with them – well, it’s some creepy stuff.

Combine that with Reggie’s ability to ACT, to fight back, and her desire to save her brother no matter what the cost is to her, and you have one pretty darn good story. I really enjoyed this first novel, and definitely recommend it for young adult readers looking for a paranormal scare outside the realm of the usual.

Rating: 7 – Very Good

Soulstice (Book 2)

Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2009
Hardcover: 272 pages

Summary: (from TheDevouring.com)
Six months…

Since Reggie first discovered the existence of the Vours in a tattered journal. Since her little brother Henry began to mutilate animals and turn against her. Since she learned to overcome her fear and destroyed a Vour to save Henry.

Months later, the Vours still haunt Reggie, but only in her dreamsβ€”until one night, when an unexpected visitor turns her nightmares into reality.

Terrifying, nail-biting, and grossly intriguing, readers will devour this thrilling sequel.

Review:

Soulstice picks up exactly six months following the events of The Devouring – with the approach of the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year). Henry has been returned to his normal self and thankfully cannot remember much of his time in the fearscape under the cruel prison of the vour that possessed him. And yet, though their lives have settled down, things are far from normal – the loss of golden boy Quinn has disturbed their small town and even six months later, detectives are poking around for answers…and they zero in on Aaron when they find Quinn’s car at the bottom of the local lake. Vours threaten from every angle, as possessed police officers and high school students provoke Aaron, Henry and the girl that has inexplicably bested them, Reggie. And then she discovers that there’s something brewing among the vours – and with the coming summer solstice, her world may be in even more danger than ever before. Once again, Reggie must fight the evil that lurks around the edges of darkness, to protect not only those she loves, but the world.

I enjoyed Soulstice, reading it again in pretty much a single go – but I have to admit I was a disappointed with this sequel. While The Devouring was much more focused on the bond between Reggie and Henry, balancing the horror of the Vours with the psychological issues of being left by their mother and the engaging sideplot of the mysterious journal, Soulstice relied much more on grotesque descriptions and action. While The Devouring could be read as a stand alone novel, Soulstice seems to have fallen directly into the “market this book for the next in the series!” trap. Not that Soulstice was bad – it just wasn’t nearly as good as its predecessor. The difference is apparent even from the opening chapter; in The Devouring, a haunting prologue from the handwritten journal unfolds in a terrifying recount of the past, whereas Soulstice opens with a dream sequence complete with a lake of severed ears and a dead boy. The scares in Soulstice are very much of the gross-out variety (and in truth, they aren’t even that gross or original). Not that this is a bad thing, but it simply wasn’t very scary. The atmospheric fear that made The Devouring was all but missing in this second novel.

In terms of scope, Soulstice broadens the realm of the Vours. At the end of the prior novel, Reggie learns that there is an ongoing war between the monsters and some humans who have banded together to eradicate them (of which Mr. Bloch is a member), and so the stakes are necessarily raised in this installment. Having discovered a way into others’ fearscapes, Reggie decides to stand against the human fighters who simply kill the possessed without trying to save the trapped souls within, and she takes it upon herself to liberate two such trapped souls. I like that Reggie is questioning the status quo (even though she makes a few TSTL decisions in this book), and the sequences in the fearscapes are nail-biters. Though, I did find myself wishing Reggie would spend a little less time in fearscapes, a little less time running from disaster to disaster, and a little more time taking a moment to think through the consequences of her actions. There was a lot of flash and action in this book, but hardly any character development or reflection…which sucks, since Reggie’s inflection in the first book was one of the main things that drew me to the series.

Overall, Soulstice is a good read, but an unfulfilling one. I liked it, but I’m hoping that the next novel has more to offer for Reggie and her friends.

Rating: 6 Good

Notable Quotes/Additional Thoughts: For more on the Vours, make sure to check out the official website HERE.

Also you can read a sample chapter from The Devouring, HERE.

Giveaway Details:

And now, for the giveaway! We are giving away ONE copy of The Devouring to a lucky reader! The contest is open to EVERYONE, and will run until Saturday August 15th at 11:59 PM. We’ll announce the winner on Sunday during our weekly stash. In order to enter, simply leave a comment here – and for fun, let us know what your greatest fear is…

Good Luck!

56 Comments

  • Book Chick City
    August 12, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Great reviews!! I can’t believe how different the US and UK covers are for The Devouring. One is completely demure and the other horrific! I must say though, I do like both πŸ™‚ Also, I’m from the UK, can I enter your comp?

  • Ana
    August 12, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Book Chick City – the contest is open to everyone so yes, you can enter! :mrgreen:

  • RKCharron
    August 12, 2009 at 2:51 am

    Hi πŸ™‚
    Thanks for bringing this series to my attention.
    What great covers too!
    I love a good horror novel & this series sounds great.
    πŸ™‚
    My greatest fear is my children not dying of old age.
    Love and best wishes,
    @RKCharron
    xoxo

  • Raina
    August 12, 2009 at 4:14 am

    My greatest fear? That I won’t fit enough in before I die.

  • Gerd Duerner
    August 12, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Aye, that horrific cover would sure have tempted me to buy the book on the spot in my youth.

    Fears, a well, I’ve got more than you can shake a stick at, but I’ve got a regular phobia of bees/hornets/wasps and anything that disguises as one (no not people in silly bee costumes).

  • Jamie
    August 12, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Small boats on algae-infested waters… CANNOT do it. No matter what. Ugh. I get chills just thinking about it.

  • Diana Peterfreund
    August 12, 2009 at 5:28 am

    I’m with Book Chick City: my mouth dropped open when I saw the cover they put on the UK version. Seems obvious that the US cover is supposed to appeal to the Twilight/Wicked Lovely crowd, and the UK cover to…. Stephen King fans?

  • Maija P.
    August 12, 2009 at 5:42 am

    I’m afraid of snakes. If visiting a pet store, I won’t go anywhere near the places where they keep snakes. I can’t even bear to watch them. The smaller and colorful they are, the more scary they feel to me…

  • danielle
    August 12, 2009 at 5:54 am

    hm…dying in a plane crash. Don’t know why. I’ve had this reaccuring nightmare since I was seven of me in a two engine plane plummeting to the earth. Not pleasent.

  • I Heart Book Gossip
    August 12, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Great interview. Please count me in.

  • Susan B. Evans
    August 12, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Please count me in, too:)

    I have two MAJOR fears that kind of go hand in hand. First, I’m afraid of water – I don’t swim, and just thinking about being on a big lake or ocean or sea, makes me feel claustrophobic. That’s my second BIG fear – enclosed spaces. I read a great book recently, A Superior Death by Nevada Barr, which invoked the feeling of cold, dark water closing in on you… (shudder!)

  • JenP
    August 12, 2009 at 6:44 am

    People I love dying.

  • Clara
    August 12, 2009 at 7:05 am

    Wow, this serie sounds really thrilling!
    And the right cover is really scary 😑
    I have a lot of fears, mostly stupid ones, but be buried alive really makes me shudder

  • Katee R
    August 12, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Let’s see … Chucky. Yeah, that creepy redhead doll. I can’t even see a picture of him without having nightmares. When I was in first grade, my step-brothers made me watch Child’s Play and then sat my little sister’s baby doll in my lap (with a butter knife) and told me if I moved it would kill me. Guess I’m still not over it because I can’t even sleep in a room with dolls in it …

  • Juliana Dias
    August 12, 2009 at 7:23 am

    I’m completely and utterly afraid of cockroaches. Nope, not disgust, A-F-R-A-I-D !!

    I was really looking foward to this series, although I must admit I had no idea at all they were terror. I loved the cover and just assumed it was another paranormal YA romance. The UK cover certainly doesn’t pass that impression, but I got a little scared by it, not sure if I’d want it in my room, when is very dark and gloom and I’m alone, and ok, stop thinking about it!

  • Jennifer K
    August 12, 2009 at 7:29 am

    Being alone.

    And heights. And drowning. And spiders.

    But mostly, being alone.

  • Angela T.
    August 12, 2009 at 7:41 am

    The books look interesting. I don’t like spiders much.

  • elaing8
    August 12, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Sounds like a good series.greatest fear is drowning

  • Adrienne
    August 12, 2009 at 8:59 am

    Thea-I am with you IT was and still is one of the scarest books I have ever read (and I was 10 when I read it) slept with the lights on for a few days and had to look under the bed. A good horror book can not be beat, I’m game for a copy if you are kind enough to select me for the give away.

    Clowns probably scare me-I know, but they πŸ˜† are super creepy, especially clown dolls but again, see IT referenced above

    Another event that horrifies me is what is our planet going to look like in 10-15 years? That actually keeps me up at night sometimes πŸ™

  • Sara M
    August 12, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Count me in! This series sounds amazing.

  • Donna S
    August 12, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Sounds great. Thanks for sharing and doing the reviews.

    My biggest fear is fire.

  • Thea
    August 12, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Thanks for all the entries! On the US versus UK covers – I probably should have included a bit in my post on the difference since it is rather jarring! I think I prefer the US cover (though it does seem typical paranormal/UF YA, it does have significance to the story), though the UK cover certainly grabs attention and gets the genre message across loud and clear in a way that the US version doesn’t! In fact…I kinda skipped over the US cover when I first saw it, only realizing nearly a year later that it was a YA horror novel. Hmm.

    I’m kinda excited to see what they do with the cover for Soulstice!

    Oh and since I want to play, I have a deathly fear of moths. Butterflies too, but mostly moths. *shudders* It’s called mottephobia, apparently.

  • Rose Lerner
    August 12, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Ooh, put my name in the hat!

    My greatest fear is that everyone secretly dislikes me, and I just haven’t realized it yet.

  • Valerie N
    August 12, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Spiders. I know it’s cliche but I can’t help it!

  • Kay
    August 12, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    I have read The Devouring but really liked it, and would like to own my own copy since I plan on buying the sequel! Please add me too! πŸ™‚

    infiniteshelf at gmail dot com

  • Wanda
    August 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    My greatest fear is of spiders!
    Please enter my name in your draw. Thanks.
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Tynga
    August 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Hi! Thanks a lot for the giveaway, I had my eyes on the book for a while but haven’t bought it yet. With the second one comming out soon I better hurry lol

    My greatest fear, well I know it’s kind of ridiculous but I’m scared as hell to have a car crash. I am so nervous in a car and on the highway it’s ridiculous! I have had my license for 6 years and I haven’t drived a car since =/

    Thanks a lot for the opportunity!

  • Teresa W.
    August 12, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    My greatest fear is claustrophobia!

  • Dottie
    August 12, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    I fear snakes, spiders, and flesh eating zombies. Being attacked by flesh eating snake and spider flinging zombies are my nightmare!

    Please enter me!

    Dottie πŸ™‚

    gymmom_027@yahoo.com

  • Casey
    August 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe how different the US and UK versions are. My biggest fear is my daughter not having the chance to live a long and happy life.

    Please enter me!
    Casey

  • Dene
    August 12, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    These books sound great…..

    My Biggest fear is being alone in the dark.

  • Shawna Lewis
    August 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Shawna Lewis
    weloveourdogs@juno.com

    Oh thank you so much for this giveaway!!!

    I fear dieing in a horridly painful way!!!

  • Blair W Lewis
    August 12, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    blair Lewis
    blairwlewis@gmail.com

    Thanks for the contest count me in!!!
    I fear spiders ALL spiders!

  • Acacia McMurtrey
    August 12, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Acacia
    retardeddoglover2@hotmail.com

    I am feeling lucky thanks for the book contest.
    I fear being buried alive the most out of anything!!

  • Shawna Jean Phillips
    August 12, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Shawna Jean
    theblindcupid@gmail.com

    WOW I just love book giveaways thanks the entry!!!

    Lets see what do I fear most….Being eaten by a Grizzly Bear that scares the hell out of me. We camp a lot in Yellowstone so that’s why I have that fear.

  • stezton
    August 13, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Definitely my greatest fear is something happening to my little boy. He’s changed my life so much. πŸ™‚

  • Falling Off The Shelf
    August 13, 2009 at 5:10 am

    I’d love to win a copy of this book, it looks fantastic, and I love the cover as well.

    My biggest fear, at least the one that comes to mind when asked this question, is losing my fiance. I’m not talking about losing him to another woman, or because he just runs off…I’m talking about losing him from this world entirely. I don’t know what I’d do without him, he’s my everything.

    Thanks for the great contest πŸ™‚
    Jenni

  • Hailey
    August 13, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    This sounds like an awesome book! Please enter me.

    My greastest fear is heights! When I was 8 I cried on the ferris wheel.

    Shadowofwonder47[at]yahoo[dot]com

  • Indigo
    August 13, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    My greatest fear actually came to pass that was losing the last of my hearing and going deaf. Now I fear losing my memory, forgetting details, days or faces and people. Then again if I couldn’t remember I would know what it was I had feared.

    Please enter me in this drawing. Thanks for this opportunity! Indigo

  • Llehn
    August 13, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Oooooo… I’d love to play please! Thanks.

  • Llehn
    August 13, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    Oops … forgot to add that my greatest fear is living a life of mediocrity!

  • Jenny N
    August 13, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    I really like the covers for this book. My greatest fear is snakes. I am really afraid of them.

  • Raelena
    August 14, 2009 at 4:58 am

    count me in please! My greatest fear is death
    throuthehaze at gmail dot com

  • Elie N
    August 14, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Wow the UK cover is gory, this book looks scary. I am most afraid of deep, dark water! (shudder)

  • Lori T
    August 14, 2009 at 6:08 am

    Oh my, these sound very intriguing. I would love to be entered.

  • Courtney
    August 14, 2009 at 10:53 am

    This book sounds great, can’t wait to read it!

  • Jo
    August 14, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Wow, awesome contest! I’d like to enter please!

    My biggest fear isn’t anything typicaly scary. I mean, I really hate spiders, and wasps, and creepy crawlies in general, and I’m the biggest wimp when it comes to horror movies. But my biggest fear is becoming infertile. I know it sounds a little silly, but the thought can keep me up all night. I just can’t bear the thought of not being able to ever have children. That’s my biggest fear, because I want children – at some point – more than anything else in the world.

  • bridget3420
    August 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Clowns are my greatest fear.

  • Belinda m
    August 16, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Please include me in your giveaway

    I am afraid of heights..no roller coaster for me

    Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Chat – join us at CoolCanucks.ca

    bluebelle0367(at)hotmail(dot)com

  • Cassie
    March 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    I’m…not afraid of spiders or heights or anything along those lines at all. In fact, I think the thing I’m most afraid of is my own past. I’ve had some..er..bad times, and the worst thing ever for me would be to have everything come back to me again.

  • Sara S.
    July 11, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    The book looks uber good. I hope that my library carries it. Or I win the book.

    My greatest fear, is that someone will creep through our house windows, and slaughter me and my family.

  • shannon
    July 5, 2012 at 11:27 am

    This book looks really good and maybe a bit more scary than the books I ussually read. I am absolutely terrified of spiders they are so freaky! I hope I win this book.

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  • maria
    November 6, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    i love the devouring i can wait to read the other two books i wish there were more books though

  • Anonymous
    September 12, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    πŸ˜† i love the book soulstice is one of my favorate the first 30 pages of the book are amazing <

  • Anonymous
    September 9, 2016 at 1:38 am

    I Want to read SOULSTICE!!??

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