Maureen Johnson: Devilish

Maureen Johnson’s Devilish commanded my attention as soon as I heard first of it (via Westerblog, of course). The potent combo of demonic subject matter, a Providence RI setting, and a cover that evokes one of my favorite Penelope Houston albums added up to a heaping helping of positive associations and I requested Devilish from the library tout de suite.

comparison of covers of Maureen Johnson's book Devilish and Penelope Houston's album Cut You

I found several little things to like a lot, like Johnson’s favoring of elegant, witty descriptions of things like clothes and sports cars instead of the more common brand-name dropping. I also appreciated protagonist Jane Jarvis’s refreshingly pragmatic response to purportedly supernatural goings-on. I’m definitely interested in reading more from Johnson.

This is apparently Johnson’s first foray into fantasy genre fiction, though, and it shows a bit. The novel opens with a prologue that suggests a combination of Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree and McKay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland, but it doesn’t quite live up to that promise, partly because the prologue gives away too many of the book’s best surprises to an attentive reader. And one of the main drivers of Devilish‘s plot is fundamentally a deal-with-the-Devil story, and that’s very well-worn territory for any fantasy/horror reader. Johnson strives for an original take on the trope, but some readers may find her gimmick (because there’s always a gimmick in deal-with-the-Devil stories) a little hard to swallow. Fortunately, it’s also a story about the parameters and limits of friendship, and it works much better on that level.

Needs More Demons? Yes. Or it needs the demons it already has to be a little more convincingly, you know, demonic.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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