Clementine DeVore spent ten years trapped in a cellar, pinned down by willow roots, silenced and forgotten.
Now she’s out and determined to uncover who put her in that cellar and why.
When Clementine was a child, dangerous and inexplicable things started happening in New South Bend. The townsfolk blamed the fiendish people out in the Willows and burned their homes to the ground. But magic kept Clementine alive, walled up in the cellar for ten years, until a boy named Fisher sets her free. Back in the world, Clementine sets out to discover what happened all those years ago. But the truth gets muddled in her dangerous attraction to Fisher, the politics of New South Bend, and the Hollow, a fickle and terrifying place that seems increasingly temperamental ever since Clementine reemerged.
Fiendish is the first book by Brenna Yovanoff that I’ve read—and it definitely won’t be the last. In fact, I’m currently devouring Paper Heart and liking it possibly even more than Fiendish. But first: Fiendish.
This book has atmosphere. Gloomy, strange, beautiful atmosphere. It evokes the country town of New South Bend so well that I could see it, smell it, hear it. And it’s perfect for the rich, close magic of the books inhabitants: the bizarre and sometimes terrifying fiends and the humans related to them.
One of the other things that I liked best is that closeness. This isn’t a book about saving the whole world, but just about saving a small town. The story takes place over just a few days, following Clementine and her cousin and friends, and it feels very intimate. A lot that is the great characterization—Yovanoff is a master at giving us small details about the characters that really make them pop.
But I also like that it is a story itself is set on a smaller scale than a lot YA. Especially because that doesn’t mean the book is less awesome or less meaningful than books where an entire civilization or a country or particular population is at stake. The stakes here may be smaller, but they are not small. And that’s something that I think that goes missing from a lot of YA on a publishing level. I mean, I love a huge change-the-world story as much as anyone, but sometimes I think that publishers pigeon hole all YA books with this idea. The idea that the stakes have to be all-encompassing, life or death, every moment heightened and intense. Those stories can be fantastic, but there’s room for other stories—and they can have just as all-encompassing an effect on the reader. Fiendish is a great example of a book like this, and one that I hope will bring some light to other books like it.