Book Review: The Devil's Only Friend

The Devil's Only Friend by Dan Wells, John Cleaver #4

John Wayne Cleaver hunts demons: they've killed his neighbors, his family, and the girl he loves, but in the end he's always won. Now he works for a secret government kill team, using his gift to hunt and kill as many monsters as he can...

...but the monsters have noticed, and the quiet game of cat and mouse is about to erupt into a full scale supernatural war.

John doesn't want the life he's stuck with. He doesn't want the FBI bossing him around, he doesn't want his only friend imprisoned in a mental ward, and he doesn't want to face the terrifying cannibal who calls himself The Hunter. John doesn't want to kill people. But as the song says, you can't always get what you want. John has learned that the hard way; his clothes have the stains to prove it.

Dan Wells is an author I had previously heard from mostly because of his book series The Partial Sequence. I hadn't heard about this series John Cleaver and when I saw this book in the Tor catalogue I thought it was a first in series or stand alone. But actually it is the fourth book so far in the series, which I found out in my mid reading session. However as you can make up from the above notice, you can pick up the John Cleaver series very well with this fourth edition. It's like it was written with this in the back of Dan Wells' mind. I also have to make a confession: I didn't liked Dexter at all but I loved The Devil's Only Friend a lot!

The story of The Devil's Only Friend focuses on John Cleaver, who shares his name with that of the series. John isn't your ordinary teenager, he hunts demons for a living. What I learned early on is that he is sort of a veteran in the business, in the three earlier books his path to what he has become was explained. So, John and his team of special selected people hunt supernatural creatures called Withered. This is where the story picks up where John is about to hunt and dispose of some Withered, just to mention his team consists of FBI agents. He isn't really freelancing it! The information that John receives on where the Withered are, is given through Brooke, a very close friend of John who was inhabitated by a demon called Nobody, Brooke went through a lot and is now in a special institution. Anyway one of the first Withered they face is a nurse called Mary Gardner, her profession places her in close contact with vulnerable people, now you might think just what she might do to her victim, erase that thought please. You won't be able to guess just why she is at that hospital and I won't spoil it for you. At the time of Mary Gardner, John and his crew are also invistigating another Withered Cody French, who just as with Mary, has a unique ability. With these two in the end out of the way, John stumbles upon a much larger plot, the events leading up to this twists were action packed but after this twist, Dan Wells really managed to ramp up the speed. As now John and the FBI have to find the most dangerous Withered to date, and he is misleading them, placing them on the wrong trail and keep on murdering innocent people. This Wither calls himself The Hunter and now it seems that these Wither hunters, a.k.a. John and co. are the hunted.. The tables are turned and John's life and that of everyone he holds dear are in danger. 

What Dan Wells managed to put down in this book, in only 300pages is remarkable. Even given the fact that it felt that I got a lot of the background talk from what happened in the first three books as well. Dan Well's certainly knows how to catch the reader with the first sentence and doesn't let you go. The writing style is very easy to get into and highly addictive, pacing is spot on. The story is just over too soon.

But where The Devil's Only Friend get's it true strength from is the protagonist John Cleaver. I already said that I loved the story of The Devil's Only Friend, comparisons have been made with the tv show Dexter, well I watched it and I didn't like it. There might be similar things but John Cleaver is much more interesting than Dexter. He is much more complex, he has thoughts of killing people, but there is always only the thoughts, he doesn't give in putting it into action.He has sociopathic tendencies, he has his own rules to which his friends has to live by, basically he is weird and sort of a ticking time bomb. And this all make him very unpredictable. When I first read about John in the beginning of the book, I directly felt a lot of emotions, a struggling character, which made it easy for me to connect with. He doesn't like what he has to go through and is therefor very protective, for himself, not getting out of his comfort zone (altering his rules) and protective of his friends. Now there are some very nice scenes in the book, where he ventures just that bit out of his comfort zone with remarkable results, but you can feel the struggle with him. From all the books that I have read so far I can safely say that John Cleaver is definitely one of the most complex characters that I have had the pleasure to read about. Dan Wells did a remarkable job with designing and executing John's character, putting the narrative in John's hands in a first person perspective only makes the story that much stronger. 

And it gets even better, because John isn't only a having murder thoughts sociopath, his attitude is somewhat also very funny, some of the dialogues that he had with his FBI friends really cracked me up, sometimes John was made fun of but other time he could place quite the joke on them. It's this dialogue dynamics that really finished the story for me. Very nicely done! 

The setting of the book is also very interesting. John is a teenager, working together with the FBI to hunt the Withered, these demons don't live on grassy flower filled patches or play in the sunshine. Though they don't also dwell in the eerie dark places, they live the life of humans and here Dan Wells plays into a big psychological aspect. The Withered that we read about have roles as the innocent neighbor with a dog or the hospital nurse, this make for a creepy atmosphere in the book, Dan Wells doesn't reveal anything of how the Wither react against John's moves and this turns it into a highly predictable story, you learn and live on the go. There could be trouble behind every door, even if it is your neighbor with a dog. 

The Devil's Only Friend is a perfect book. It's hard to place in a particular genre, thriller/crime, horror and urban fantasy (I wouldn't place it in young adult though). From the start of the story I was hooked. Dan Wells has a gift it capturing the reader and not letting you go until the story has been told. Storywise, The Devil's Only Friend is just awesome, I loved the story and in a saturated fiction genre this is precisely the book that I need to get out of some more mainstream stories. The protagonist of the series, John Cleaver, is by far one of the most complex characters that I have read about, he definitely lifts this story into another dimension. Awesome reading material, I urge you to read it, you won't be dissapointed. 


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