It is less than TWO WEEKS until the release date of The Merciless III: Origins of Evil by Danielle Vega, and I could NOT be more excited. Danielle Vega’s novels are books that I devour within twenty-four hours of getting my hands on them, because I just have to know what happens next. I have been dying to learn about the origins of the evil coursing through the Merciless books, so I am more than ready for this release.
So, in honor of the upcoming release of The Merciless III, I’m going to do mini-reviews of all three of Danielle Vega’s other books (well, at least all three of them written under the name Danielle Vega. She has another under the pseudonym Danielle Rollins).
And the best part is, if these reviews intrigue you, there is still time to read the first two books in the series before Origins of Evil comes out on July 12th!
All the mini-reviews (okay, mini for me, someone who is usually pretty long-winded) WILL be SPOILER-FREE, so even if you haven’t read these books yet, feel free to read on!
Survive the Night
Survive the Night is unrelated to The Merciless trilogy but is a hauntingly wonderful read that I recommend every chance I get. It’s about a young woman named Casey who has just left a rehab center where she was getting treatment for a pain killer addiction, and right after getting out, she decides to go to an underground rave with a group of her friends (under the guise that she is attending a slumber party at a former soccer teammate’s house—for parental reasons, of course). The rave is underground in the sense that not many people know about it, but also in the sense that it is literally underground, as it takes place in the abandoned subway tunnels beneath the city—which to be honest, is probably my favorite part of the book. The setting plays a major creepy role in this book, so much so that it almost acts as an additional character. The environment of the dark, damp subway tunnels was appropriately sinister and chilling.
Once at the rave, things begin to go terribly wrong when one of Casey’s friends turns up dead. Around this same time, cops show up and bust the rave, causing most of the other ravers to flee. This results in Casey and her friends being the only ones left in the dark subway tunnels, and the entrance they came in through (a manhole cover) won’t budge. Terrified and shaken up at having just found one of their friends killed, the group begin searching for a way out of the tunnels, but the whole way they are being chased by something that is intent on picking them off one by one.
I loved this book. As previously mentioned, my favorite thing about it is definitely the setting, but overall it just has a really eerie, horrific feel to it, and it definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is so suspenseful, as there is always something happening, someone dying, or some absolute nightmare coming to fruition right before the characters’ eyes. It’s the type of the book where you’re sure the next turn they take is going to get them out of where they are, the next thing they try is definitely going to work, and then when it doesn’t, you’re so let down.
I really liked the main character of Casey in this book and her struggles, including her struggle with sobriety and the battle she feels she faces of choosing between staying true to her sobriety or having a social life/keeping he friends, and I really liked her emotional journey throughout the book. I felt there was a lot more to her than just being a teenager screaming and running for her life in a subway tunnel. That being said, the only thing I would say takes away from the book’s amazing-ness a little bit is that the characterization of Casey’s friends falls a little short. Many of them are kind of flat characters and could be easily interchanged with one another, with little to no differentiation in their personalities. In part, I think this happens because the book features such a large cast, and while it’s not a big deal, it is the one drawback I would say it has—but it makes up for it in other ways, especially the setting and the overall horror element.
This is one of those books that you close still reeling from what just happened. I shut this book and it resonated with me for a long time, largely because I was left wondering if the horrors of the book really happened, if they were the result of a bad trip of some sort, or if everything was a huge metaphorical journey. It’s definitely something that can be interpreted in multiple ways and the ending will completely catch you off guard. It is definitely not what I was expecting. This book is a fantastic YA horror/thriller, and if you love YA, horror, or just general creepiness, definitely pick it up ASAP.
On to The Merciless trilogy! The Merciless is the first book in the series, and I also mentioned it in my article about “weird” books for when you’re looking for something unsettling to read, which you can read here if you’re interested. This one has some major Heathers/Jawbreaker/Exorcist/Haunting of Molley Hartley vibes. (Is that last reference too obscure? Do other people remember that? Chace Crawford before his Gossip Girl heyday?) The main character and narrator, Sofia, is the new girl at school, and she gets adopted into a group of popular girls who turn out to be a little…strange. Sofia quickly starts to realize that these girls are pretty religious, but not in the we-wear-purity-rings-and-go-to-youth-group-every-Sunday way, and more in the we-baptize-our-new-friends-in-the-school-bathroom’s-sink-and-think-people-are-possessed-by-demons way.
After she joins their little group, the girls end up kidnapping another young woman from their school named Brooklyn, who is a little rough around the edges and who they are convinced is possessed by a demon. They take her to an abandoned house in an empty only partially-built development (another suuuper creepy setting from Vega), where they proceed to tie her up in the basement, nail shut the windows, and start attempting to perform an exorcism on her, complete with maiming and mutilation.
Yeah, so you know that moment when you realize you’ve fallen in with the wrong group of people…?
I have to tell you, though, this book is insane…in a good way, though. You would think that things couldn’t get crazier than the school mean girls cutting up the outcast in the basement because she’s possessed by a demon, but they do. Brooklyn ends up getting loose in the house and it turns into an all-out battle between the girls which may or may not include a scene where one of the girls may or may not nail one of the other girls to the floor with a nail gun. And that’s only a tiny smidgeon of everything crazy that goes down.
This is another book that I highly, highly recommend. This is a fantastic creepy read. It’s got an eerie setting, a pretty compelling cast of characters, and enough insane plot twists to keep any horror fan guessing. And of course, no spoilers, but when it comes to the ending of this book, it totally flipped. The. Script. On me. I was not prepared. Amazing twist ending, and again, I highly recommend this one.
The Merciless II
So in The Merciless II, Sofia has gone away to a Catholic boarding school, and I’m just going to say right from the beginning, Vega nails it with the ominous setting once again. I don’t know if boarding schools are inherently creepy (although I do love horror movies that use them effectively as a setting, such as The Blackcoat’s Daughter, but I digress), but Vega manages to use the boarding school setting very effectively in this novel and make it pretty sufficiently scary.
So obviously after the traumatizing events of The Merciless, Sofia is having a pretty tough time at boarding school already, and things only get worse for her while she’s there. Aside from the downright creepy headmaster, she also has a roommate who keeps having bad things happen to her, and which Sofia blames herself for, and she has a crush on a boy named Jude, who ends up really being the path to destruction more so than anything. Jude seems like a nice, sweet, Catholic boy, but he turns out to be a lot more than meets the eye, and not in a good way, so, once again, Sofia finds herself battling with forces of evil.
There’s not too much I can say about this one without giving things away and spoiling things for the first Merciless book as well as this one, but I will say that I didn’t like The Merciless II as much as I liked The Merciless. Some of the characters, such as the roommates, didn’t get enough development for my liking, and the twists and turns were not as good as the twists that happened in the first book. On top of that, the ending, while another twist ending, felt a little cheesy to me. It’s quite possible that Danielle Vega just set the bar so high with the first book that the following book ended up being a bit of a letdown for me. It’s not a bad book by any means, but it’s definitely not as good as the first one. I did still like it, though, and of course, it’s an essential step toward getting us all caught up in time for The Merciless III on July 12th.
So what about everyone else? Have you read any of Danielle Vega’s work? What did you think of it? And are you positively freaking out with excitement over The Merciless III like I am? Let me know in the comments below! You know I’d love to talk. <3