Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.
Revengers is the first in the YA Revengers Series, and it is the first work by the author, David Valdes Greenwood, better known for his non-fiction books and his plays, I have read. This is a revenge story with a supernatural twist. If that is not unusual (we all know revenge stories orchestrated by evil or sometimes simply very angry spirits), both the details and the characters are.
Those who love mythology, in particular, Greek (and Roman) mythology, will probably appreciate the thematic link to the Furies, ancient vengeful deities whose roles and interpretation changed over time. Because, the book tells the story of three adolescents who’ve experienced terrible losses at different ages (Marc, a Harvard dropout, only a year ago, whilst Justin and Ama were much younger) and who, for different reasons, have had to grieve alone. They’ve been experiencing terrifying nightmares since the events, that they witnessed, and suddenly, these nightmares become more real than before. A strange and scary female figure tells them to go to Salem and leaves them a journal. They feel compelled to obey Rebecca, the fury/spirit behind their nightmares whose story we learn later (and who had good reasons to seek revenge).
The story is told in the third person, mostly alternating the points of view of the three main characters (although also briefly from the victims and other characters with small parts in the story, including the Rebecca herself), who, although don’t know each other at the beginning, end up becoming an ersatz family. They are as diverse as they could be (ethnically: African-American and Dominican blood, Chinese, old Massachusetts stock, sexually: Marc is gay and Ama and Justin haven’t had much time to think about such things so far; they also have different interests, studies and their economic and family circumstances are miles apart) but have to form a team to be able to fulfil the rules and get rid of their nightmares forever. Although killing somebody is not an easy task, they don’t realise how complicated things can get until later, when secrets and half-told truths come to light. The rules they are given, that seem to be clear-cut and not leave any room for ambiguity, aren’t so clear when one scratches beyond the surface, and there is no such a thing as getting off scotch-free.
The Salem of the story (I cannot comment on how much it resembles the real location, although for me it is more of a paranormal backdrop to the story than a real place, and it reminded me a bit of Demon Road where an alternative order and lifestyle existed side by side with normal life, without anybody other than those involved being aware of it) is full of secrets, tragedy, lessons not learned and people trying to maintain the status quo while pretending everything is fine. Although it might appear like business to Halloween Tourists, to those in the know, witches are the least of their problems.
The three main characters have distinctive personalities and are realistically portrayed (Ama is quite suspicious, Justin can be quick to act, Marc is a bit of a softy) and they are all flawed, and not all that likeable at the beginning of the story but make a good team and learn to appreciate and accept their differences and skills. For me, one of the most appealing aspects of the book (apart from the suspense and the mystery) is the strong bond that develops between the three adolescents who at that point didn’t have a close connection or intimate friends who knew their secrets, shared their concerns and cared for them. I particularly liked Ama, who although is tough and determined, is also the character who often hesitates and questions the morality of their actions and who will go to any extent to try and keep everybody safe. And that is why in the end… (Don’t worry, no spoilers).
The book is compellingly written, with enough imagery and description to feel the changes in weather and scenery (that are all in tune with their experiences and the action providing visual and sensory emphasis to the events), without becoming cumbersome. The interactions between the adolescents and with other characters ring true and help build their characters more convincingly. There is plenty of action, it has many scary moments and the suspense builds up from the start (as we have a time-frame and the clock is ticking continuously, with the tension increasing towards the end of the story). The inclusion of the point of view of some of the victims makes the story more morally ambiguous and complex. This is not just a revenge story with a few paranormal scary touches. It will make readers (and who hasn’t thought about getting revenge on somebody at some point) think twice about justice and revenge. Although the ending (no, no spoilers) opens up the series to the next book, do not worry about unfinished businesses or annoying cliff-hangers. This is not a story divided into several books where you never get any resolution. So you won’t feel disappointed because of a lack of ending (you might have preferred a different ending, but that’s a completely different matter).
I recommend this novel to readers of YA stories who love suspense, paranormal subjects, mythology and strong and diverse protagonists. Especially those looking for a new series with a kick-ass female protagonist. The author has promised to keep me informed when he publishes the next books in the series, so I’ll keep you posted.
With an introduction from one of my favorite authors, Greg Gifune, the Horror Guide to Massachusetts, is a superb reference to horror in my home state.
Being from western MA, I can tell you that we WM natives are often angry because almost everyone who thinks they know our state are really are only talking about Boston. I was happy to see that this book did not ignore us at all and that really excited me. Let me tell you about it.
Between its covers this book consists of vignettes of dark MA history-be it fictional or real. Yes, yes, yes, Salem is here and has voluminous entries regarding events, films and books. But what's also included is the Quabbin Reservoir, (pretty close to where I live), which, I learned, may have been the basis for Lovecraft's Arkham Reservoir, and was also a location in Stephen King's Dreamcatcher. Very cool!
Even more cool to me, was the inclusion of my hometown of Springfield. Even though it was home to Indian Motorcycle, Springfield Rifle, (you can still visit the Springfield Armory), basketball and Dr. Seuss, not many people have heard of it. I was pleased to find lots of entries ranging from June Foray who voiced the creepy "Talky Tina" from the Twilight Zone episode, to the fact that Kurt Russell, (Snake Plisskin!!), was born here.
Every type of horror angle is covered-from real historical events, (like the flooding of entire towns to create the aforementioned reservoir), to film and book mentions. This fact makes this book a tremendous reference for fans of history and dark fiction, in both film and literature.
If these subjects interest you, I highly recommend Horror Guide to Massachusetts!
*Thanks to Scott Goudsward for signing my copy at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Fest! (Please forgive me for taking so long to review it. )*
Podcast Episode 156: The Marblehead Smallpox Riot: Smallpox Blankie, or Why Are My Neighbors Bumpy?
Podcast Episode 147: The Greenbrier Ghost: Meatless Mondays are Murder!, or Ghosts Make My Head Spin:
true story of the only known legal case where a ghost testified about her own murder
followup entry: Postmortem Photography: includes a premortem photography story about my great-grandfather
Podcast Episode 145: Squirrel Tooth Alice: No pithy Bullwinkle title because there are vintage nudes, yes sir you are welcome
Podcast Episode 126: RA Cunningham and Tambo: Nickels in the Dime Museum, or How to Buy Other People for Fun and Profit!
and, Resources: American Crime Story (and a personal fable, boogeyman and all): relates back to several episodes and ties them all together:
All of thedollop.net entries has the mp3 of the corresponding podcast episode embedded in the beginning of the blog entry, so you can easily listen as well as read. Also, all of the entries have many, many more suggested books to read than I have highlighted here. Because it's me.
Patreon (help me afford to be here much more often, and there)