Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Carmody, an Australian author previously unpublished here, is certain to ensnare readers with this superbly crafted novel. Her plot has all the ingredients of a supernatural horror tale: a new kid arrives in a strange, Stepford-like village and joins up with a group of fellow students who undertake a cosmic battle against a mysterious evil force. But Carmody transcends the genre by relating the story through an unusually lifelike narrator, and she gives it urgency by suggesting that its supernatural elements can be interpreted as symbols for the tensions and painful mysteries of ordinary life, the dark causalities between the sins of the past and present crises. The foreboding atmosphere achieves a nearly visceral intensity as Nathaniel, the narrator, describes ever more specific phenomena--a pervasive stench from the town slaughterhouse; the erratic behavior of his well-trained dog, who meets a grotesque fate; the uncanny similarities between the school principal and the charismatic dancing teacher of a previous generation. The suspense never slackens, and the resolutions of the many conflicts are powerfully wrought. Utterly riveting. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 7-10-Vile odors, feral dogs, fascistic school monitors, and a demonic principal combine to convince Nathaniel, 15, that something is terribly wrong in his new town. As part of a class assignment, he probes into local history and discovers the shocking truth about the death of a school janitor years ago. The evil from that chilling incident still grips Cheshunt and is now rapidly gaining power. Nathaniel finds himself drawn to a group of misfits at school and they are soon involved in a struggle against the terrible forces that seek total control of the community. Suspense builds slowly and creates an atmosphere of grim foreboding. However, Nathaniel is the only one of the young people whose personality is distinct, and the fantasy elements in the plot are not fully developed. The principal is, of course, pure evil. The other adults are mostly unaware of the epic battle shaping up around them. Only when evil is about to triumph do the young people at last understand the true nature of their power. It is this last-minute insight, however, that makes the chilling climax a success. The message-that love, loyalty, and true friendship can conquer jealousy and hatred-will not be lost on readers. What will attract and hold them, though, are the superbly crafted elements of horror, which are the story's real strength.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 9-12. From the moment he and his mother arrive in Cheshunt, Nathaniel has a "premonition of wrongness." The school is ruled by a brutal band of the principal's chosen ruffians. A pack of feral dogs roams the streets at night to enforce the "voluntary" curfew, and the stench of death from the slaughterhouse pervades everything. When he is approached to become the final link in the Chain, a secret society attempting to defy the powers that be, Nathaniel is too curious to refuse. Then his visions of the failure of an earlier Chain begin as he is placed in the middle of a life-and-death struggle to discover the key to overcoming the evil that has taken over Cheshunt. Carmody effectively creates and sustains a sinister atmosphere that will appeal to readers of supernatural and horror fiction. Nathaniel's character is well developed, and his fears and frustrations are wholly believable as the web of darkness draws tighter around the town. There are some holes and unresolved loose ends in the plot, but the basic premise (the villain who creates chaos and then plays on people's fear of violence to manipulate them into accepting him as their salvation) holds up well--the message is clear but not tedious. This chilling tale will be a snap to booktalk and an excellent vehicle for reluctant readers. The scene in which Nathaniel's dog is set on fire might be a bit graphic for the more sensitive. ~--Jeanne Triner
Horn Book Review
When high school student Nathaniel Delaney moves to Cheshunt, he immediately senses the dark side of his 'squeaky-clean' model neighborhood. The strongly atmospheric story includes enough suspense and unsettling violence to satisfy any horror fan but is understated and thought-provoking in its psychological dimensions. The story contains an emotional depth lacking in most current teenage horror novels. From HORN BOOK 1994, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
When Evil returns to the town of Cheshunt after many years, five teenagers with troubled pasts form a Chain to combat it. Carmody festoons her tale with tried-and-true elements--nightmares, eerie winds, feral dogs, airs of wrongness, supernatural effects, talismans and rituals, diaries, and an old mystery to unravel. She also places several important incidents offstage, to be reported by one character or another, offers undeveloped hints of dark deeds in the distant past, and gives her Evilness an objective that will strain readers' credulity: Karle, the local high school's possessed vice principal, organizes armed groups of students to terrorize neighboring towns as a preliminary to conquest. Though presaged by an act of startling brutality (Karle's heavies torch a beloved pet) and set in the town slaughterhouse (a nice touch) during a hurricane, the final confrontation is as confused as it is dramatic: Karle takes a time-out from a psychological assault on the Chain to explain his plans--not noticing that the building is on fire. Fans of the horror genre will find this Australian novelist's US debut uneven but promising. (Fiction. 12-15)