The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino
Titan, pb, £8.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Eliot Birch’s mother is sick, but medical science can’t help her, so Eliot is looking into alternative methods from grimoires and spellbooks. Fortunately, Eliot’s father is the headmaster of Falk University and Jessop Library, with an unrivalled collection of books on the arcane.
Tess works in the library in her spare time, and Eliot enlists her help in accessing parts of the library students aren’t allowed in, and for a good reason. In his quest to find a cure for his mother, Eliot unleashes a demon who wants to take over Tess’s life. Together they must re-trap the devil before it destroys Tess entirely.
My favourite element of The Devil Makes Three is the setting. My library is a modern affair with Lego displays from the kids’ clubs, computers, and advertising for local events. Not in the least bit scary. But Jessop English Library is an old-school library where the air is thick with dust, and the loudest noise will be a polite cough or the rustle of noises. Set in the summer, there is the added aspect of the heat in an airless place like that, where you could rest your head on a table for a moment and wake an hour later to the head librarian’s disapproving glare. It doesn’t take much to imagine a forgotten evil lurking in the pages of the books there.
Viewpoints are limited to Eliot and Tess with the occasional small chapter from the devil’s consciousness. No more than a page or so, these chapters break from the close third-person past tense narravtive style to second-person past tense. This means the story moves between the two main characters with enough from the devil’s POV to keep things unsettling and sinister.
Eliot and Tess are both relatable characters. Eliot’s parents are no longer together; his father left his mother but still holds the purse strings over them. Eliot is forced to do what his father wants, like get an education in America while his mother is in England. Tess is at a school she doesn’t like because she knows it’s the best school for her younger sister, Nat, and is willing to do what it takes for Nat. They have both grown up quicker than their peers because their home lives have not been easy, and their success matters more because they have people relying on them. When I read, I have to emotionally invest in the characters or get bored, and The Devil Makes Three had me reading long past my bedtime to find out what happened next.
The Devil Makes Three had everything I needed to engage me; a fantastic setting, understandable characters and pure intentions, and a twist at the end that had me stalking Bovalino’s social media pages for any hints of a sequel!