What a neat little surprise this novella turned out to be – a whimsical YA steampunk tale that draws from Irish folklore, set mostly in late 1800s Boston.
Once a year on Halloween, the Devil’s Gate is opened and all the demons in Hell pour out to create their mischief. The O’Neil family line are the guardians of the gate – they supervise the demons and serve them drinks in their Tavern. Come midnight they shoo the demons back through the gate, when it will close again until next Halloween. Jack of the Lantern is a mystical figure with the magic and strength to keep the demons cowed and obedient.
This year, however, something goes wrong. Jack of the Lantern is captured, and the Devil and all of the demons of Hell run amok instead of returning to their own dimension.
What follows is a fast paced adventure with a clever protagonist and a darkly comic tone. There’s a robot army, magical artifacts, a deal with the devil, a morally ambiguous Ogre named Mickey, and a tightly plotted narrative with some nice twists. It’s an imaginative romp in which the main character must best the Devil largely by thinking on his feet, and it’s great fun. The prose is straightforward and the story is dark without becoming grim, making it a great book to read with children. There’s certainly enough excitement to keep them interested. Some of the details I found especially enjoyable – I grew up in Britain in the 80s, and I remember having a turnip as a Jack O’Lantern myself. 😉
I’ll absolutely be picking up the sequel for this one.
With all that said, however, it’s not without a couple of issues. There are a smattering of typos, and a couple of occasions where a word is misused (“penultimate” was a glaring one – it doesn’t mean what the author thinks it means). This is occasionally an issue with self-published novels and it’s especially unfortunate here because it marred a story that was otherwise pretty great. Personally I found it enjoyable enough to forgive these problems, but YMMV.
r/Fantasy Bingo 2017 Squares
- AMA/Writer of the Day