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The White Devil

The White Devil - Justin Evans Starting a new school is never easy but when the school is across the ocean, is exclusive, and has a 400-year-old history, the rituals and adjustments a new student faces is even more daunting. This is what faces Andrew Taylor as he prepares to cross the threshold of his new private school, The Harrow School. Sent there by his father as a last-ditch effort to improve his grades and standing among elite college boards, Andrew knows that he cannot screw up again or else the consequences will be dire. Unfortunately, a mysterious force seems bent on preventing Andrew from walking the straight-and-narrow. Just how far is Andrew will to pushing the envelope in this unfamiliar environment while attempting to solve the mystery? Does Andrew even stand a chance?Any time a story is based even partially in fact, the rest of the plot becomes much more interesting. This formula holds true for The White Devil. Anyone with access to the Internet can do a quick search to determine whether Byron's life story really was as dramatic and diverse as it is mentioned in the story. Given the eyebrow-raising facts mentioned in the heat of the story, most readers will feel the urge to do just that. This in no way detracts from the plot but rather adds to the ring of authenticity exuding from its pages. The mastery of The White Devil is not only in the literary history weaved into the story, the grim atmosphere takes on a life of its own. The dreary and damp weather, while often construed as a cliche about London weather, truly does come to mirror the mood of the characters, their hopelessness, and despair. The rain represents their frustrations at the lack of understanding and confusion about what is truly occurring. Mr. Evans executes this idea of the backdrop becoming a secondary character in a novel brilliantly, bringing to the story a very old-fashioned, Gothic feel that works brilliantly with the plot itself.Andrew Taylor and Piers Fawkes, as the two main characters, are uniquely flawed but so well-suited to the story. Both have flawed pasts and are given the opportunity to grow beyond their flaws. Yet, the reader never knows whether each character will do so. The reader's inability to predict either character's behavior or reactions only adds to the confusion and growing dread. Combined with the atmosphere and historical elements, this unpredictability succeeds at keeping a reader breathlessly on edge up through the very last lines. The White Devil has it all - atmosphere, history, supernatural activity, mystery. It is a perfect read for a stormy autumnal afternoon, as its eeriness fits so well with the idea of decay and retreat that permeates the air during that time of year. However, that is not to say that a reader cannot enjoy it at any point in time during the year. I finished it on a bright morning in May; even though the weather was sunny and warm, I still managed to feel chilled and uneasy at the action unfolding before my eyes. Mr. Evans has successfully captured all of the elements of a true Gothic horror novel, making The White Devil a must-read for any fans of that particular genre.Thank you to Mark Ferguson from HarperCollins for my review copy!