Review: The Merciless by Danielle Vega

August 10, 2014 Reviews 6 ★★½

The Merciless by Danielle Vega
Series: The Merciless # 1
Published by Razorbill on June 12, 2014
Genres: Horror, Paranormal
Pages: 279
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

What a weird little book.  The Merciless is a mash-up of the films, The Craft and Heathers, but with a main character who is all sorts of jaw-droppingly stupid.  Sofia is the new girl in school, and on her first day, she already has two factions fighting for her attention.  One is the bad-ass chick, Brooklyn, and the other is a group of popular girls, led by Riley and her sidekicks, Alexis and Grace.  Both Brooklyn and Riley are eager to tell Sofia how horrible the other is, and Sofia must pick a side.  Some sinister goings-on at school, including Sofia’s discovery of a skinned cat, help Sofia to choose.

I might have already lost you at the skinned cat, but that’s just a prelude of what’s to come. There are objects shoved under fingernails, an attempted drowning, and a few other delights for the torture porn lovers out there.  I have to say that I didn’t really mind any of this, but only because it was difficult to take this book seriously.  I didn’t understand why any of these events were occurring, and I didn’t care enough about any of the characters to be disturbed.  An explanation for the torture IS provided, but I still don’t know if any of the girls actually believed it, or if they were just getting their jollies.

Sofia floats through all of this mayhem, sometimes participating and at other times making half-hearted attempts to stop the torture.  Her inner dialogue is a lot of, “Oh, my, this is so awful!” even while she is helping the abuse to continue.  Evidence of her stupidity is rampant on every page.  She has ample opportunity to grab a weapon – ANY heavy object would have sufficed – to subdue the main attacker.  She also has chances to escape by breaking a window, but after one feeble attempt to knock out a window with her bare fist, (as I mentioned, she is stupid), she gives up.  It never occurs to her to use any of the objects lying about that are explicitly mentioned in the book, including a tool box (which probably contained, you know, TOOLS) or a CD player.

Aside from Sofia, the primary character is a butcher knife.  This  knife has a mind of its own.  It seemingly wanders on its own throughout the house where the events play out.  It’s in a backpack, then it’s out of the backpack.  It’s upstairs, then it’s downstairs.  One every other page, a character is demanding, “Where is the knife?” or “Go get the knife.”  I think this knife made more of an effort to escape the torture house than Sofia did.

In one sloppy scene, a character is pushed down a flight of stairs and her “arm is wrenched behind her, her legs curled beneath her body at strange, unnatural angles.” OK, that sounds really bad.  So then why is this character soon up and walking around?  How do you have your limbs twisted at “strange, unnatural angles” unless something is dislocated or broken?  And no one who witnessed this thought it odd?

I’ve just spent several paragraphs complaining about various aspects of The Merciless, so you might be surprised that I gave it 2.5 stars.  That’s because despite all of the silliness, this is still a fun read.  And yes, I absolutely want to read the sequel.

On a side note, I love the design of this book.  There’s no just jacket – just the simple cover design with the deceptively sweet pink color.  With the design and the small size, it looks like a book you might find in a little shop filled with potions and spells and witchcraft.



6 Responses to “Review: The Merciless by Danielle Vega”

  1. Jillyn

    I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this one, but your review (though it’s on the negative side) makes me think that I’ll at least like it on some level. It’s one I’ve wanted to read for a while.

    • Stephanie

      It’s definitely worth a read, especially if you don’t mind some (OK, a LOT of) blood.

  2. Pili

    Aaaaah, I’ve been such a bad bad blogging friend! I haven’t visited in forever, Steph!!

    And eeeeeh, this book sounds like something to avoid for me, not a fan of animal torture or gruesome scenes, even less if they end up being part of a book with a rather silly main character and with a blah plot! I will be avoiding this one for sure!!

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