Unholy Terrors

Holt. Oct. 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250887733.
Gr 9 Up–Everline Blackthorn has spent her whole life training to become a warden, to protect the Hallowed Lands from the vicious monsters known as vespertine who live beyond the wall. Despite being older, Everline will always come second to her legitimate sister Briar. Everline’s father leads the wardens while her mother is their most notorious traitor, who abandoned the wardens the night Everline was born. While out on patrol with her best friend, Everline comes across Ravel Severin, a human-vespertine hybrid who reveals there’s more to these monsters than Everline was taught. For Everline to save her best friend and discover the truth about the enclave, she’ll have to follow in her mother’s footsteps, abandon the cause she’s sworn to, and seek out the truth. Strong character dynamics prop up the thin plot arcs and uneven pacing but are never deep enough to truly develop the characters. Ravel and Everline’s romance adds an additional layer to Everline’s inner conflict. Clipstone relies heavily on repetitive descriptions to create the Gothic atmosphere that permeates the novel, with her dialogue doing a lot of the heavy lifting. With next to no worldbuilding, readers are often forced to fill in the blanks themselves. Most of the cast reads as white.
VERDICT Heavy on vibes and atmosphere, this is ultimately an underdeveloped goth fantasy that may appeal to fans of Nicki Pau Preto’s Bonesmith.

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