Simon Holt’s Devouring (Sorry Night 1) begins with that good old horror standard- the story within a story. The story within is actually quite horrifying and the central story once it gets going is fairly disturbing with lots of nice gruesome moments for younger horror fans. Again parents beware- there is minimal swearing, but there are plenty of moments which might be too much for younger or more sensitive readers. I believe children should be exposed to horror fiction (whether in book or TV form) at a relatively young age, and this book explores both the pros and cons of that way of thinking. On one hand exposing them may prepare children for real life horrors, helping them to cope better, though on the other hand it may help to bring out a darker side and can have dangerous effects. It may be simpler to say that horror simply makes for a damn good read or viewing.
The Devouring focuses on Regina, an adolescent girl and avid horror fan (her references to movies and texts may get kids into the classics of the genre), her eight year old brother Henry, and her friend Aaron- nerd and love of serial killer histories. Other characters come and go, but the central trio are interesting and loveable enough to help the pages turn. Reggie and Henry live with their father after their mum left without saying goodbye, and Reggie acts as surrogate. On a night before Christmas Reggie reads a strange horror journal she recently found in the bookstore she works in to Henry, and of course it terrifies him. The book tells of creatures called Vours who (Body Snatchers style) take over your body and send your sould off to a hell made up of your own fears. They only come one night a year, and only attack those most scared. Of course, it’s only a story, and of course Sorry Night comes and bring the Vours to Henry (Evil Dead style) after reading the book. A race to save Henry begins, but there may be a larger threat on the horizon.
The Devouring is a quick read which should leave readers thirsty for more. There are plenty of the usual horror cliches but hopefully most readers will not have encountered them before and there are plenty of other surprises and shocks to keep us enthralled. The plot and characters are interesting, the bad guys seem genuinely evil and threatening, and the scary parts come thick and fast. Part 2 will definately be one to look forward to and Simon Holt may well be writing scarier stories than the more established Darren Shan- judge for yourself.