Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: September 5th, 2017
Synopsis: Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history–that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made–then broke–a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn’t exactly the forgiving type.
The fiend has reawakened with one purpose–to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts to trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.
Little does Prosper know, the malefactor’s control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there’s a lot Alastor isn’t telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host.
I’m a huge fan of Alexandra Bracken’s YA books, so when I saw The Dreadful Tale Of Prosper Redding on NetGalley, I was both excited and curious about her first book for tweens. I’ve always thought that writing for 9-12 year-olds must be especially challenging, as they’ve moved past most juvenile fiction, yet they’re not quite ready for the more mature themes you find in YA fiction. It’s a tricky balance, and with this book I think Bracken has hit just the right spot.
From the very first page, I was completely charmed by 12-year-old Prosper. Being the “black-sheep” of the Redding family, he’s learned to cope with their disappointment in him, as well as bullying by his classmates, with a dry, self-deprecating humor. At the same time, I was angered by the treatment he received. Sure, he may not be the strongest student, but he’s gifted artistically, and he’s sweet and incredibly loyal. Even his twin sister, Prudence, who he adores, doesn’t really respect him. The relationship between Prosper and Alastor, a centuries-old demon prince, is both humorous and touching at times. As the story unfolds, there’s something more developing underneath Alastor’s snarkiness and disdain for humans and the boy he calls “maggot”. I can’t wait to see where this goes in the sequel.
The secondary characters are wonderfully fleshed out and help bring to life the underlying themes of friendship and family. There’s the relationship between Prosper and Prue, which is made difficult by her being unconditionally loved by their family and the rest of their small town. There’s also the relationship between Alastor and his sister Pyre, who he loves and does everything he can to protect. We also see the contentious feelings between Prosper’s rescuers Uncle Barnabus, and his daughter Nell. These themes are repeatedly brought up throughout the story in a realistic fashion that I think tweens will completely relate to.
There’s plenty of supernatural elements, with demons, witches, faeries, and hob-goblins, to appeal to fans, and a lot of humor to balance the more serious elements. The main setting of Salem, MA during Halloween is absolutely perfect, and experiencing it through Prosper’s and Alastor’s view was so much fun. The one issue I have concerns the ending. I thought Bracken did an amazing job building everything up, but then when the finale came, it was so rushed and had so many last minute twists, I was left shaking my head and wondering what the heck happened. It was a bit crazy and messy, and stood out too much from the rest of the story.
Overall though, I was charmed by The Dreadful Tale Of Prosper Redding. It’s a whimsical, fun, and creepy tale that I highly recommend to tweens who love horror and the supernatural.