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Tess Matheson’s summer has not turned out the way she hoped. Instead of practicing her beloved cello, Tess is working in her boarding school’s library, spending sunny Pittsburgh days pulling books for ungrateful faculty members. One of them has a smarmy son: Eliot Birch has been given his father’s borrowing privileges, allowing him to ask Tess to pull as many books as he requires. Eliot, fresh off a flight from visiting his sick mother in London, requests dozens of volumes, all concerning magic. He learned a bit of the craft from his mother and yearns for the right sort of spell to cure her. The answer may lie in one of the forbidden grimoires locked away deep in the library’s stacks. Eliot’s search brings him and Tess into contact with a book-bound demon, a monster willing to do anything it takes to remain free. The novel has some interesting ideas and competent characterization; the real problem is the narrative’s flow. Large chunks of pages pass during which little happens, and while Tess and Eliot are modestly shaded characters, their introspection gets repetitive. Readers less enamored of biblio-fetishism may duck out before the titular devil makes its appearance and even then, the novel’s interest remains mood and atmosphere rather than plot. Unfortunately, the mood overwhelms and the atmosphere dries out. Tess and Eliot are presumed White.

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