It’s the summer of 1974 and 21-year old Dawn Emerson has only three things she wants to do: compete one last time in the Ellensburg Rodeo, win back her ex-boyfriend Ryan, and become the best damn music journalist at Central Washington University. But all her plans are left in the dust when she’s contacted by Creem magazine to go on the road with one of her favorite groups, the up-and-coming metal band, Hybrid.
At first the assignment reads like a dream come true. Not only will Dawn land some much-needed credibility as a female music journalist, but she’ll finally get to experience life from the other side of the stage, and maybe crack the drunken, enigmatic code that is guitarist Sage Knightly. Instead, Dawn finds herself on an aging tour bus filled with ego-maniacs, band politics and a whole lot of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. When monsters start showing up in dressing rooms and some of Sage’s groupies become increasingly strange and dangerous, Dawn discovers the band is not only going places – they’re going straight to Hell.
And Dawn has a backstage pass.
The Devil’s Metal is the first book in a two-part New Adult Horror/Paranormal Romance and very (very!) loosely based on the author’s exploits as a music journalist. Hell comes in different forms.
**A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.**
When I saw the cover for THE DEVIL’S METAL by Karina Halle, I immediately wanted to read the book. Its gothic quality and intriguing title piqued my interest, and when you add to this Halle’s reputation for writing addictive stories, well, I knew this book was for me. Oddly enough, what worked and didn’t work for me wasn’t what I expected. My predilection for the paranormal is what attracted me to this story but what kept me reading was the 70’s rock scene that Halle so deftly renders for the reader. This book would have been perfect if its paranormal promise rose to the level of its wonderfully drawn rock and roll backdrop.
It’s 1974 and Dawn Emerson is 21 years old and unsure of what’s next for herself. She wants to be a music journalist but other than working for small publications, local and college newspapers, she hasn’t gotten the break she needs to take her career to the next level. A job too good to be true comes along – covering Hybrid, her favorite rock band, on their US tour for Creem Magazine. What she soon discovers is nothing is what it seems and that this tour may not have the finale she was expecting.
What I absolutely loved is Halle’s ability to capture this moment in 70’s rock – a band on the road, facing the pinnacle of success or the downward spiral to mediocrity; the band dynamics, the hate and the love; the bus, the venues, the drugs, the sex, the groupies. Halle takes the reader on this wild ride called a rock tour, she demystifies it, shows it for what it is, warts and all. At the same time, when the music starts and the band is on fire, she makes you see how you can lose yourself in it and crave it.
It could go well, it could go all bad, but it was going to be epic in whichever way it went.
I was going to throw up.
Halle throws her young heroine, Dawn, into this world and it’s sink or swim for her. She’s completely starstruck when it comes to Hybrid, especially Sage Knightly, the bands enigmatic guitarist. As a young journalist who needs to learn to distance herself from her subjects, she makes mistakes. Big mistakes. But she learns from them and doesn’t let it hold her back from doing her job. I love that she’s a woman in a male dominated business, constantly being mistaken for a groupie and having to battle for respect. Dawn is an engaging heroine – strong and smart with that touch of awkwardness that makes her relatable.
I also loved Halle’s voice. There are moments of unexpected humor that had me laughing out loud.
“God, you’re beautiful, Dawn,” he murmured.
I raised my head to see if he was talking to me or my crotch.
I love the injection of that humor in a very sexy love scene and Halle’s writing has moments like this throughout the book.
However, what I didn’t connect with in THE DEVIL’S METAL were its paranormal aspects. A supernatural/horror element is lightly introduced in the beginning of the story and is slowly developed until the end when it moves full force into the paranormal. Blame it on television but the creepy elements weren’t very creepy to me. They were a bit expected with the exception of one moment – a tour bus in a sandstorm (brilliant scene). The reveal at the end was also underwhelming and felt rushed. I didn’t find the supernatural dilemma to be very compelling. In fact, I could have done without the whole supernatural storyline altogether. I wish the last third of the book had stayed focused on this young female rock journalist navigating the world of the rock band on tour and her budding relationship with one of the musicians.
What it comes down to is that what Halle gets right, she gets very, very right. For me, that was the 70’s rock scene and a young woman on the job assignment of a lifetime. What didn’t work for me, oddly enough, were the paranormal aspects. For some reason the supernatural world in THE DEVIL’S METAL just didn’t click with me. Would I read something else my Karina Halle? Most definitely. I love her voice and her Experiment in Terror series seems to be a classic to many readers. Would I continue with the Devil’s series? I’m not sure. This was a solid read but one that I wish had gone in a different direction.