Hellraisers, the first book in a new YA horror/action series by Alexander Gordon Smith is full of action but the characters suffer for it.

Hellraisers, the first book in a new YA horror/action series by Alexander Gordon Smith is full of action but the characters suffer for it.

I had never heard of the Escape from Furnace series, which begins with Lockdown, until I started working at my current school.  It was quite a popular series, and, though I wasn’t particularly engaged by it, many of my students were big fans. When I saw that the author, Alexander Gordon Smith, was beginning a new series with a sort of Faustian twist, I was pretty excited to get my hands on it.  I was rather surprised with how very uninterested I was when I got a copy.  I think if you are a huge fan of this author or if you are looking for the equivalent of blockbuster horror/action flick, this might be up your alley.  If you want a book with a little more depth, I say to give this one a pass.


Goodreads Summary

From the author of the Escape from Furnace series, an explosive new horror trilogy about an ordinary American kid caught up in an invisible war against the very worst enemy imaginable.

There is a machine from the darkest parts of history, concealed in an impossible location, that can make any wish come true, and the only price you have to pay is your soul. Known as the Devil’s Engine, this device powers a brutal war between good and evil that will decide the fate of every living thing on Earth. When a 16-year-old asthmatic kid named Marlow Green unwittingly rescues an ass-kicking secret soldier from a demonic attack in the middle of his Staten Island neighborhood, he finds himself following her into a centuries-old conflict between a group of mysterious protectors and the legions of the Devil himself. Faced with superpowers, monsters, machine guns, and a lot worse, Marlow knows it’s going to be a breathless ride—and not just because he’s lost his inhaler along the way.

My Thoughts

I have to admit I was a little disappointed by this book.  It is full of fast paced action sequences, and it has a pretty cool premise, but I just never connected with any of the characters.  I’m not sure that will be such a big problem for the target audience.  The author’s biggest draw seems to be his ability to create troubled protagonists that are actually rather heroic in their own way, and Marlowe doesn’t break the mold (though I felt like he was just too much of an idiot).  The author’s other calling card is putting that protagonist through the ringer to mold him into that something more, and, again, Marlowe is about to get wrung.  But it felt like something was just missing here.  The characters really lacked the depth and insightful growth I wanted.  They felt like characters instead of people.  Again, I don’t think that will be a huge problem for reluctant readers who just want to be entertained.  This book is full of entertaining action.  It takes off with a flying leap and it doesn’t seem to slow down much at all.  Perhaps that is really going to be the issue for more descerning readers – this book is so busy dazzling you with some truly original demons and buzzing the tower with so much battle that character development gets shuffled to the side and never makes its way to the forefront.  I’m still going to add it to my classroom library wish list because this is a book my students will want to give a try, and I think it will be very appealing to many of them.  Language and situations are most appropriate for high school, but middle school readers will probably enjoy it more.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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