Tess Matheson only wants three things: time to practice her cello, for her sister to be happy, and for everyone else to leave her alone. Instead, Tess finds herself working all summer at her boarding school library, shelving books and dealing with the intolerable patrons. The worst of them is Eliot Birch: snide, privileged, and constantly requesting forbidden grimoires. After a bargain with Eliot leads to the discovery of an ancient book in the library’s grimoire collection, the pair accidentally unleash a book-bound demon. The demon will stop at nothing to stay free, manipulating ink to threaten those Tess loves and dismantling Eliot’s strange magic. Tess is plagued by terrible dreams of the devil and haunting memories of a boy who wears Eliot’s face. All she knows is to stay free, the demon needs her… and he’ll have her, dead or alive.
I mean, a book bound demon getting released. A cello player, who wants everyone to leave her alone. Manipulating ink. Yes, I was very, very intrigued by this book. Plus, I had heard a whole lot of love and excitement for it online, so I was curious to see what I would think of it! Trigger warnings: grief, parental abuse (emotional and physical), self-harm, blood, gore
I just, what the heck.
The whole of this book is just “what the heck”, but those what the hecks have different meanings. Nevertheless, that phrase does a good job in encompassing my feelings towards this book.
Alright, let’s start off with how freaking horrifying this book got. Seriously, there was a scene towards the end that turned my stomach. This book gets GOREY. I mean, that’s also just a small piece of it too. A book bound demon is released. And that brings about a whole heck of a lot of horrors. I loved the dark magical aspects of this. The ink, the dust, the grimoires, the library, the hidden nooks and crannies that are discovered. It is so incredibly well written and this book is fantastically atmospheric.
And on to Tess. I did not expect to grow to love her. But I really, truly came to love her. She’s all sharp edges and hard determination, the kind that can go up against concrete and win. She is trying so hard to hold her life together, and to hold herself together. I loved how much she loved and cared for her sister. There is so much depth and angst to her story, and it was really wonderful to read.
I’m not sure if I loved Eliot as much as I loved Tess, but I still really, really liked him. He’s kind of a dork, but adorable at the same time. There’s a certain innocence to him, but he has also had to deal with things no teenager should have to deal with. He’s awkward and invested and awkwardly kind.
The one thing that I did not completely love about this book was how the emotional journeys tied into the overarching, book bound demon plot. There is a connection between them, I just felt like it wasn’t as strong as it could have been. I think I wanted them to mix a lot more than they did, and it would have made the book all the more gut wrenching. They kind of felt like two separate things, even though they kind of come together in the end. Though, I think this could just be how I connected to the book!
Speaking of the ending, LETS TALK ABOUT THEN ENDING. Because the literal last line had my eyes bulging out of my head. I can’t say anything in detail, because spoilers as its the end of the book, but just know that the last line and the ending of the book is brilliance. I am in awe of how Bovalina wrapped up this story. It threw everything into a different light, and it was just downright amazing.
Overall, this was a really fantastic book. It’s terrifying, emotional, and downright creepy. Like, books locked in cages with secret entrances creepy. Like, lines that send shivers down your spine creepy. So, overall fantastic! I really, really liked it.