Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten.
Now she’s out and determined to uncover who put her in that cellar and why.
When Clementine was a child, dangerous and inexplicable things started happening in New South Bend. The townsfolk blamed the fiendish people out in the Willows and burned their homes to the ground. But magic kept Clementine alive, walled up in the cellar for ten years, until a boy named Fisher sets her free. Back in the world, Clementine sets out to discover what happened all those years ago. But the truth gets muddled in her dangerous attraction to Fisher, the politics of New South Bend, and the Hollow, a fickle and terrifying place that seems increasingly temperamental ever since Clementine reemerged.
I have not been shy about proclaiming my love for Brenna Yovanoff’s books. Knowing how much I loved Paper Valentine and The Space Between, I went into Fiendish fully expecting to love every single second of it, and was ready to recommend the heck out of it. And, for the most part I still am, even though I didn’t like this one quite as much as the previous two. That’s not to say that this book didn’t have just as many things to love as the others. It was just that, for me personally, this one took a bit longer to hook me, and as such I can’t give it as high of a rating as I did her previous books. Of course, I am well aware that each book should be judged individually – and I think I’m doing that here, even knowing what my pre-reading expectations were – so don’t want to come across like I’m seriously comparing all of her books to each other. That would be pointless, as they don’t connect with each other in any way, shape or form, and are in fact quite different from each other. But there’s still a part of me that just wanted Fiendish to grab hold of me from the start and never let me go, and it didn’t quite do that.
Let me start off by saying that Fiendish is set in a small town in the modern US, with a paranormal flair. I’ve seen the term “magical realism” thrown about before, and would say that’s probably an accurate description here as well. Clementine, our main character, has been locked away in a cellar in a destroyed house for ten years until she’s rescued by Fisher. Clementine can’t remember much of anything, including how she got down there in the first place, so the start of the book is a bit muddled and confused. This is most likely the reason I wasn’t immediately hooked – it’s hard to grab a reader when their main feeling at the start is pure confusion – but it fit with the narrative and made sense for the book. Once things got going a bit more, and some of the truths about Clementine’s time before the cellar are revealed, things started to flow a lot more easily as the suspense and tension amped up.
I have to say that I loved the type of magic seen in the pages of this book. It was different while still being familiar, and I loved the way the characters became linked together. I also liked the look at this small town, where very little has changed in Clementine’s lifetime, and prejudices run rampant towards anyone who’s a little different. There was a lot here about hiding your true self away for fear of others finding out, as well as Clementine’s own personal journey towards finding herself and discovering the truth behind her imprisonment. All of this really helped me get to know the characters and feel for their situations. There is also an amazingly sweet first romance in Fiendish, and I loved that sort of grasping, fumbling look at two people who like each other and are trying to figure out what to do with it. And I have to say that I give massive props for the awkward first kiss which made me “aww” like mad.
All in all, Brenna Yovanoff has another winner with Fiendish. There’s a lot to like here, whether it’s character development, magic, or small town politics and prejudices, and the mystery is solid enough to keep you engrossed in its pages. There is darkness here – the magic that rules these characters isn’t exactly light and fun – but it all just further drives home the author’s talent for writing. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.