The Merciless by Danielle Vega
Release Date - June 12, 2014Publisher Website - Penguin/Razorbill
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 279 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received in exchange for an honest review from the publisher**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Forgive us, Father, for we have sinnedTeenage girls performing an exorcism. That's basically all that it took to sell me on Danielle Vega's gory debut. The novel delivers everything the synopsis outlines, and definitely made me keep the lights on after finishing.
Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?
This novel is going to appeal to a very specific group of readers. Those who flinch at gore, and blood need not apply. The unflinching, brutal way Danielle paints the horrific events that transpire makes it almost impossible to look away. You're swept away in this mob mentality, but are hopeless to stop it. You're caught in the grasps of Danielle's storytelling the same way Sofia is caught in something she can't control. It feels like you're spiraling down this demented rabbit hole and all that is left to do is wait and see what the other side looks like. It's just as intense as you expect, and even perhaps more than you bargained for.
The shiver inducing contrast between the innocent exterior of these girls, and the brutality that they are capable of is brilliantly shown. The seeming normal gossip about boys, the red wine, the decadent desserts, all paint a picture of a sleep over. It's just one that has gone horribly, irreversibly, wrong.
This novel's tension is built by keeping you on the edge. Each time you think the worst has happened, Danielle proves you wrong. This escalation only serves to build the unease I felt as things quickly crossed the point of no return, and kept me engrossed in the story. The tension does dwindle a little in the later half, and therefore the pacing isn't quite as strong, but the stunning use of it previously made it, for me, a minor issue.
While the novel has many solid points, the second half didn't quite measure up to the fantastic start. It offered a few thrilling turns in the story, and but didn't quite match the tone of the rest of the novel. It's saved by the rather impressive final passages that left me reeling as it changes how you see the story completely. Danielle Vega did a fantastic job with this aspect of the story. She routinely makes you think that you're reading one story, while showing you that you're actually reading another. This allows for some delicious tension as you never quite know where the story is going to end up.
In the end the story I wanted wasn't exactly what I got, and my view of the ending is a little jaded by that. However, it's a strongly written, chilling look at find evil in the most unexpected places. It's a page turner in every sense, and horror fans will be delighted with the plots twists and turns. Just be sure to read it in the daylight!