A gripping and fast-paced tale of horror, betrayal, vengeance and penance.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Devil’s Prayer is a four-part account of the lives of three women, who are related not only by blood but by a fate woven by the Devil. An intriguing Prolog and the author’s notes make significant additions.
The Prolog is a typical modern suspense thriller and gives us a hint of supernatural mystery. However, the story quickly shifts to the first chapter before letting us spend too much time pondering on what we have just learned.
Part 1 starts with a very public suicide of a nun in a church in Spain. Soon, we are introduced to two sisters from Australia, who find out that the nun is their long-lost mother, Denise. This part of the book talks about reactions of the family members to the news, and a cryptic message from a priest. The readers will still be in the dark about the things that are about to follow.
Part 2 is in Spain. Siobhan, the eldest daughter of the dead nun, finds her mother’s documents in a vault and starts reading the letters addressing her. The mother, Denise, was subjected to brutal assault and attempted murder by a group of jealous and greedy friends who left her for dead. Denise became a quadriplegic, and her old mother struggled to make ends meet. The Devil came to see her, in a fedora. This part of the book feels dragging at times, the change in flow and pace is abrupt. I rarely notice typos in a book because I am horrible at editing, but it’s there. The scenes following the assault and murder are about the victim’s dilemma and linger on till I start wondering if anything from the prolog or first chapter is relevant.
Just then, part 3 brings us to a detailed description of Denise’s vendetta a result of a pact with the Devil. The scenes are gory, violent, but feel more expository, though the author did use graphic visual imagery. I couldn’t emotionally connect with them.
Denise pays her debts and gets back her health, but an unexpected pregnancy brings Jess, the youngest daughter, and Siobhan’s half sister, to this world. The two scenes of Denise fulfilling her pact with Devil involving Jess’s potential fathers are wonderfully executed.
The book’s strength is in its historical account of a tryst between Genghis Khan’s general Jebe and Papal Inquisitor Arnaud Amalric, where the part 4 comes into play. That’s when we connect this complete account to the prolog and first chapter. The author has expertly played with history and fiction, modern and medieval, violence and manipulation. The few chapters about the quest of finding the Devil’s Bible reflects the author’s knowledge of history and extensive research work for the book.
Part 4 reveals quite a few secrets, ties up a few loose ends and leaves us with a potential sequel.
The author is a master narrator. The shift in location, slow build up of character correlation and frequently appearing surprises retain the element of suspense throughout the book, keeping the story unpredictable. However, POV shifts are not very smooth, especially within the mother’s account. The sudden appearance of dialogues after paragraphs of narration is distracting, often confusing, due to a sudden change of POV.
The book cover is an excellent piece of photography showing priests on a procession. I am not sure, but the central priest seems to be holding a statue of baby Jesus on the cross. I have read that the author is a photographer and he has traveled through Europe, so I want to ask if the author has taken this picture.
The characters develop in a smooth and rounded up manner. However, Siobhan, the main character (supposedly) has more of a third person presence in the story. She is the connection, anchoring all the events for us, but we never really get to know her. The mother and the sister are both rounded off nicely, sister surely going to play a larger role in the evident sequel (the author hasn’t confirmed or declared a series name yet). The Devil wearing a fedora is my favorite character (oh, please, before you start calling me a devil-worshipper, I like the way the author has developed his character, not the Devil himself!)
The author maintains a uniform air of mystery in the characters of the fathers who play crucial roles in the plot development. The reader’s trust and suspicion dwindle with the lead character.
Siobhan may not be the most well-rounded character in this book, but she is relatable. You feel her mother’s anguish seep into your veins through her as you see the events unravel through her eyes. Other than a few scenes of Denise’s POV, Siobhan’s journey has a death grip on your curiosity and emotions.
Overall, The Devil’s Prayer is an excellent example of historical fiction with horror, thrill, and some supernatural elements.
Who could have imagined a fedora wearing Devil?
If you like works of Dan Brown or movies like The Omen series, you will appreciate this book.
According to Goodreads, The book is based on Luke Gracias’s documentary on a 13th Century conspiracy between Mongols and Papal Inquisition. The author has traveled through Europe for a film scripting. So no wonder, the historical account feels so authentic. Check out the book trailers and related videos on the author’s page in Goodreads and Youtube.
The book is available in