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A Young Adult novel set in South AfricaYoung Erin Dearlove has lost everything in a violent attack on her family She now lives with her bohemian aunt Kate in a run down apartment block Locked into a fantasy of her previous life she shuns all overtures of friendship from her new neighbours until she meets Mr Devilskein the demon who lives on the top floor and opens a door into another worldDescriptionJust as Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book reworked Kipling’s The Jungle Book for a modern audience with a liking for the supernatural Devilskein Dearlove is a darker edgy contemporary reworking of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden An orphaned teenager is taken in by a reluctant distant relative and in her new home makes an unexpected friend and finds a secret realm It has shades of the uirky fantastical in the style of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli animated films like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle originally a novel by Diana Wynne JonesAlex says “As a child The Secret Garden was one of my first favourite novels one of the first I relished reading by myself Although Devilskein Dearlove is very different it was inspired by that novel and its themes” AuthorAlex Smith lives in Cape Town with her partner their book eating baby boy and their two dogs She has had four novels published in South Africa Random HouseUmuzi Imprint was shortlisted for the 2010 Caine Prize and won the 2011 Nielsens Bookseller’s Choice Award MarketYoung Adult and Fantasy adult crossover precocious readers of 9 and over Readers young and old of Neil Gaiman and Markus Zusak in particular will enjoy the mix of glee and horror darkness and hope; while the story will also appeal to slightly older readers of Roald Dahl Eoin Colfer and Lemony Snickett“Alex Smith’s uirky imagination knows no bounds” André Brink


10 thoughts on “Devilskein Dearlove

  1. says:

    This YA novel was hard to put downThirteen year old Erin Dearlove is sent to live with her aunt in a flat on Cape Town's Long Street after her parents and brother are brutally murdered The trauma has caused Erin to block the memories of what happened instead telling people her parent were horrible and eaten by crocodiles describing in detail the mansion with a glass staircase she used to live inErin is difficult stroppy and rude She refuses to go to school or to make friends with anybody But then she discovers her dark and mysterious upstairs neighbour Mr Devilskein Devilskein is an ancient being who is a keeper of the souls of those who made Faustian deals When Devilskein gives Erin the key to one of six colourful doors in his home she discovers multiple worlds of magic an ancient and beautiful Chinese garden an underwater paradise and William Shakespeares's lost works But Erin doesn't know that this world of magic is also one of dangerous secrets and that the she's drawn into it the she and those she holds dear are in mortal peril In Devilskein Dearlove Alex Smith spins a beautiful tale that has gothic undertones It is enchanting and it would be wonderful to read about Erin Dearlove in future books


  2. says:

    Devilskein Dearlove is a whimsical and slightly dark take on the classic The Secret Garden a book I have always loved so this was great fun for me It is a book of heartsand keys and lies and sacrifices set in the wonderfully prosaic a block of flats in Long Street Cape Town and the wonderfully metaphysical A labyrinth of bartered soulsErin Dearlove is an orphan who is blocking out the horror of her family's death with an intricate fantasy history and a cold and bitter demeanour Sent to live with her Aunt Kate in an apartment in Van Riebeek Heights she is constantly sneering at the apparent poverty and the people who live there comparing it unflatteringly with her “previous” life in a mansion with staircases of glass with peacocks roaming the grounds She rebuffs the friendliness of fellow teen Kelwyn Talmakies and is isolated even from her aunt who doesn't know how to help herMiserable and antisocial and damaged she meets a person even so than herself – The Companyman Mr Devilskein who keeps a fantastical secret in apartment 6616 Devilskein has lived for hundreds of years bartering the souls of people desperate for fame or love or genius and making it so that they can never reclaim those souls trapping them in his interconnecting worlds behind a series of doors called The Indeterminate Vault; the keys all unmarked and muddled In Erin and Kelwyn Devilskein sees a chance at immortality – he will take the children’s hearts to replace his own failing oneBut there are other factors at play – the cricket Zhou who guides Erin through the fantastical world and a shadow boy called Julius Monk trapped in the Haga; a doorlesswindowless prison Both play Erin for their own purposes – capturing her with friendship real and false Zhou guides Erin to a Chinese garden behind a turuoise door and there is where Erin begins to grow back her lost self by caring for a garden that was salted with tears and bringing it back to life The book is layered with this kind of delightful metaphor and deep readers will get a lot from the shadings that writer Alex Smith uses to deepen the narrativeThrough the story Erin changes from the sour lost teenager who invented a fantasy past to one who is powerful artistic and brave one who will be able to finally face the horror of her parents' and brother's murders and see real magic She is fooled by false friendships and rejects true ones but it will take these actions for her to change her world and be able to free lost souls and save a cityThe story has magical charm embroidered with sensory details and is a lovely and strange little book The characters are all very different though I would say the one thing that I found jarring was that sometimes the ages of the teen characters were hard to place I knew they were teens but often they read younger than that which may also be down to trying to capture a little of the spirit of the source materialPublished by Umuzi Press so although the book is available in South Africa overseas readers will probably have to go through to get a copy


  3. says:

    Erin Dearlove is a pretty talented and highly intelligent teenager She is also moody intolerant and wields her considerable grasp of the English language like a rapier She lives in an apartment with her aunt above Long Street in Cape Town Yet behind the facade of an irritable and perpetually dissatisfied teenager lie the embers of a horrific event in her past something so damaging that she cannot face it YetIf Erin can be considered irritable Albertus Devilskein is completely caustic He has the scary countenance of a horridly disfigured old man although it's absolutely impossible to venture exactly how old and the personality to match What he does for a living is another mystery and he has two rather uniue pets who are perhaps the only living entities whom he addresses with a modicum of respectIn an attempt to rid herself of the attentions of a young boy named Kelwyn who for reasons even he cannot grasp is completely in love with her Erin concocts a fake appointment for tea between her and Mr Devilskein And so with Kelwyn looking on in horror Erin knocks on the door strides in as if there was nothing was awry and announces that she has arrived for tea and scones And so Mr Devilskein meets Ms DearloveThe narrative and the various characters blend together seamlessly and although I found myself wishing the story wouldn't end I was soon completely swept up in this swirl of fantasy and the real Certainly Devilskein Dearlove is a wonderful book but the novel addresses issues that are all too real in virtually everyone's lives uestions such as who and what we choose to let into our worlds and who we don't? How we choose to perceive aspects of our lives and what we are blind to? And of course love and lossAlex Smith is an uniuely talented and well established author This she has already aptly demonstrated in her previous works and Devilskein Dearlove is certainly no exception


  4. says:

    I flew through this book one of the uickest I've ever read Readers will be drawn in by the loneliness and vulnerability of the protagonist and then by her fantastical experiences that follow I'm not usually a huge fan of fantasy writing but this way of a 'real world' setting and experiences first meant that I was already drawn in and had to keep readingThe characters were uniue original and well thought out especially Erin the protagonist meaning that she didn't annoy me as lots of characters do The plot's pace was pretty good didn't leave me hanging for too long and kept moving The mixture of lots of different emotions and ever changing tone kept me on my toes even as an adult reader let alone YA and kept me wanting to read I loved the dark undertones and sinister suggestions under the surfaceI was also impressed by the aesthetics of the book the cover is simply beautiful and appeals to the imagination and curiosity of readers Gender neutral too which is always a plus especially for YA readersFab for YA readers but great for a wide modern audience and I would highly recommend this uirky novel to all very readableI received this book as part of Goodreads Firstreads programme and I am grateful to Goodreads the author and the publisher for sending it to me NB this review has also been posted on UK for the benefit of the author


  5. says:

    Highly evocative fantasy set in Cape Town South Africa Alex Smith manages to bring the city to life swapping between the the commonplace and fantasy elements seamlessly blurring the lines to draw the reader into a place that feels so familiar despite its uniue magical elements Great characterisation as well 👌


  6. says:

    The mind is a tricky beast Bad memories can be swallowed whole or twisted into lies This is the underlying message of the new novel by Cape Town based author Alex Smith Devilskein and Dearlove13 year old Erin Dearlove enjoys telling people that her parents were eaten by a crocodile The truth is even horrifyingAfter the ‘incident’ Erin goes to stay with her Aunt Kate in her Long Street apartment It is a small rundown flat but in Erin’s world it is a portal to a wonderful hall of doors leading to ancient walled gardens an ocean cabinet full of undersea creatures and a room filled with elaborate keysErin’s aunt encourages these wild imaginations believing them to be part of the healing process So when Erin recounts having tea with the mysterious Mr Devilskein in apartment 6616 she doesn’t bat an eyelid nor does she uestion the long hours her niece spends with her new best friend a talking cricket named ZhouSmith believes fantasy allows people to mask their most painful memories “But fantasy can also be a platform for our most brilliant potentials We dream it before we can do it I think the human mind is an extraordinary universe of possibilities along the continuum the one extreme end being creativity light and the other absolute destruction dark”Keys are an important symbol in her novel which is written in lyrical Dahl esue prose Some keys are there to unlock secrets and mysteries others to seal them in It is through one of the doors unlocked by a key that Erin discovers a beautiful walled garden from an ancient Chinese dynasty“As a child” says Smith “I was utterly enchanted by Jules Verne’s work loved CS Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe – and who could forget Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Michael Ende’s adventure The Never Ending Story?”Like these classic works Devilskein and Dearlove is sure to become a much loved book for young adults It’s a magical tale not soon forgottenThis review first appeared in the Sunday Times


  7. says:

    I read an early draft of this novel and liked it very much The published version is simply delicious The feisty Erin is in denial about how she became on orphan To deal with her loss she invents a fantastical story about her family's demise She goes to live with her aunt Kate in Long Street Cape Town There she meets befriends the mysterious Mr Devilskein who against all odds opens a door to hear heart again


  8. says:

    I think this is one of the best YAfantasy novels I have read for a long time The author acknowledges that the idea came from her favourite childhood novel The Secret Garden but she has added in darker fantastical elements demons the nature of evil and even a hint of romance Highly recommended Thank you Alex


  9. says:

    Read it and loved it Perfectly pitched for the Young Adult market yet so appealing for those of us who have long left Young Adulthood behind I'd love to know if Erin Dearlove will be appearing in other stories And as for Devilskein


  10. says:

    35 starsReview to follow