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I received this e-Arc from NetGalley and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review. 

Release Date: December 1st, 2015

Synopsis: There is a machine from the darkest parts of history, concealed in an impossible location, that can make any wish come true, and the only price is your soul. Known as the Devil’s Engine, this device powers a brutal war between good anand evil that will decide the fate of every living thing on Earth. When a 16-year-old asthmatic kid named Marlow Green unwittingly rescues an ass-kicking secret soldier from a demonic attack in the middle of his Staten Island neighborhood, he finds himself following her into a centuries-old conflict between a group of mysterious protectors and the legions of the Devil himself. Faced with superpowers, monsters, machine guns, and a lot worse, Marlow knows it’s going to be a breathless ride–and not just because he lost his inhaler.

This is the first book I’ve read by Alexander Gordon Smith, and to be perfectly honest I have mixed feelings. I definitely enjoyed the horror aspects, and I thought the world-building was decent, but the overall story just didn’t capture my attention.

I’m not someone who has to have their protagonist be picture perfect. I actually like it when they have a few rough edges, but there does have to be something that draws me to them and I didn’t find this with Marlow. I did have a certain amount of sympathy for him because of the difficult circumstances he finds himself in, but I just found him to be a kind of bland character.

Pan, the “ass-kicking secret soldier” is brusque and aggressive to the point of being one-dimensional and unbelievable. I honestly couldn’t find one thing I liked about her. 

None of the secondary characters really stand out either. The only one I remotely connected with was Marlow’s best friend, but it wasn’t enough for me to become emotionally invested.

While it takes a while for the author to explain exactly what the Devil’s Engine is, the story is fast-paced with exciting action sequences practically on every page. I think though that’s part of the problem. It seems like the author put so much of his time into fight and chase scenes that there was very little left over for character development.

Hellraisers is the first book in a planned trilogy geared towards 12- 18 year olds. While there is plenty of violence it’s not gratuitous and is entirely in keeping with the storyline. Hopefully the characters will be more fleshed out in the next book. In the meantime, I think that teen horror enthusiasts will enjoy this interesting take on the classic Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe.