I took one look at the cover of this book (it protrudes) and knew it would be an easy sell to middle-grade readers but I also immediately underestimated its content, writing it off as all show and no substance. I was delightfully proven wrong.
The opening grabs the reader immediately, with an urban legend scenario.
First, a black feather. Second, a twig. Third, a knot of cat fur… The fourth ingredient was a tear (p 7).
When Luke performs the ritual, completed with the words “Tall Jake, take me away,” he is shortly taken away by the cover boy to the land of Malice. The terrors of Malice make it to our world in the form of a comic book. When Seth and Kady, Luke’s best friends, track down the elusive comic, they learn of Luke fate.
Seth longs for an unexplored world. According to Seth:
It was as if there were two worlds for adults, divided by an invisible barrier: the world of the Living and the world of the Dead, The Living dressed up and looked good, and they went out and did things like go to the theater and eat in restaurants. They laughed and sparkled. The Dead drifted back from their jobs every day and sat in front of the TV, and every day they got a bit pudgier and duller, and they only bought cheap, functional clothes because there was no point looking good when you never went out.
Seth looked at his parents, and he was afraid. He was afraid that he was a child of the Dead, and nothing he could do would stop him from turning into one of them (p 37).
Angered by Luke’s end and mesmerized by the possibilities of Malice, he soon summons Tall Jake. It is part prose, part comic book (though the art was the weakest part of the book), this would be an easy sell to Wimpy Kid readers.
This is more than just a good horror (if you liked The Devouring, you’ll love Malice). It is a layered story. Jake only comes for those who believe, those who think they are ready. Some make it out alive. Some die. Some don’t want to leave. I’m already clamoring for the sequel, Havoc.