Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Mephisto Covenant review

The Mephisto Covenant
by Trinity Faegen
Egmont USA
September 2011

This book, hands-down, wins the award for Worst Book I Have Ever Read. It seems to have all the ingredients for success: teen paranormal romance, gorgeous cover, mysterious debut author. I was surprised and disappointed by how quickly the story went downhill. The mythology is actually fairly well-thought out, and perhaps the strongest part of the book. Eryx, an evil demon, is attempting to overthrow Lucifer by collecting enough followers to challenge his ruling in Hell. Eryx has started a secret society called The Ravens, recruiting in high schools around the country, to further his plans.

Seventeen year-old Sasha's life is turned upside down when her mother Katya must return to Russia after the murder of her father. Sasha, in the meantime, is sent to live with her Uncle Tim, Aunt Melanie and cousins Brett and Chris in Colorado to finish out the school year while her mother gets settled in Russia. It's soon obvious that Brett and Melanie are deeply involved with the local Ravens group. Sasha meets gorgeous Jax and learns that she is Anabo - a direct descendent of Eve imbued with powers of good, and Jax is a Mephisto, a rare son of Hell tasked with punishing evil-doers in order to gain redemption.

Parts of this story read a bit like Laurell K. Hamilton Jr. - a younger, cleaner version of Hamilton's Anita Blake series, or Sherilynn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter series.

First and foremost, my major problem with the book was the male hero, Jax. He's irresistibly drawn to Sasha, and quickly turns into a completely creepy Stalky McStalkerson. Just a few examples of things he does that would put Twilight's Edward to shame: turns himself invisible and watches Sasha sleep, punches a guy for daring to talk to her, erases her memory of their first meeting so that he can have a "do over" after he's had the chance to re-con more information about her, kisses her and then decides things are moving too fast so he attempts to erase her memory again (but fails) - but not before selfishly grabbing a few extra smooches before he tries to brainwipe her, logs into her Facebook account and reads all her messages. Another move he makes that I'm sure many women would find romantic, but I find utterly gross; after Sasha's dysfunctional aunt Melanie destroys all of her clothes, he teleports her to San Francisco where he purchases a sexier, cooler wardrobe for Sasha. He even pops in to her dressing room, uninvited, prompting harsh words from nearly-nude Sasha.

I hated the trope of thousand year old man-whore being redeemed by underage virgin. Jax has gotten around the block a time or two, because after all, "a man has needs" but innocent, naive Sasha is his destiny, so he'll clean up his act for her.

What I found hardest to swallow was that much later, Sasha gets an opportunity to spy in Jax's closet, and is incredibly impressed by an ancient wooden box he's saved with keepsakes of his mother from Ancient Greece. He's angry that she's been snooping, and she actually feels incredibly guilty about it. Wha-aaat? Why??? After his complete lack of boundaries (and Sasha's occasional annoyance at his intrusiveness) why on earth would she feel even the slightest bit guilty?

Unfortunately, there are several info-dumps in the book that are repeated when one character has learned something, but another hasn't, so we readers have to hear the whole thing again - I'm sorry, Nanowrimers, but you know the sort of thing I'm talking about - cheap ways to up a word count without moving the story forward.

Most of the characterizations are quite flat. Sasha is good and sweet and a bit Mary-Sue'ish and boring. Aunt Melanie is hell-on-wheels evil and batshit crazy. Sasha's cousin Brett is moustache-twirlingly villainous, murdering a girl and getting away with it, spreading rumors at school that Sasha is a whore and generally being a bully and a big dumb jock. Jax's brothers are hopeless around women and only minimally fleshed out with personalities or interests of their own.


There was simply too much going on throughout the story - I could have done without the whole subplot about Sasha's schoolfriend Amanda having a crush on Brett and when she finally decides to take the oath to Eryx, Brett forces her to strip nude and is threatening her with hot-pokers, but despite all that she still likes him.

Things come to a head when Sasha melodramatically learns that she was illegally adopted from Russia (as was her cousin Chris) and Brett decides decides that now that they aren't "really" cousins, now would be a perfect time for raping - Sasha's dog Boo comes to her defense, and heartless Brett kills the animal by throwing him into a wall, at which point Melanie and newly-evil uncle Tim bitch her out for sneaking a dog into the house in the first place and demand that Sasha sleep in the uninviting basement. After this whole horrifying episode, the dog is never thought about or mentioned again.

I was only surprised that Sasha agrees to stay with her aunt and uncle for so long. Being threatened, denied food, having her clothes and computer destroyed, her dog killed and  jewelry stolen, why does she stay? When she visits Jax in his awesome extra-dimensional hilltop palace, filled with servants and every imaginable luxury, you have to wonder why she wants to leave. There is a lot of talk about free will - Sasha has to decide to give up her pure Anabo status if she wants to redeem Jax, but it has to be her choice. By the end, it honestly doesn't feel like much of a choice. Pretty much every single family relationship or friendship has been lost to her - of course she chooses Jax, she doesn't have anyone else! Even her mother Katya takes an oath to Eryx and sells her out.

Much is made of the fact that once Sasha decides to have sex with Jax, the process of her turning from Anabo saint to Mephisto warrior will be irreversible, and she'll be trackable to Eryx and his bloodthirsty minions. When they finally do the deed the pages feel ripped straight from a romance novel, tacky and too explicit for a YA novel.

I'm loathe to say this, but with the emphasis on "choice" this story would have read better to me if there had been a love-triangle, with an alternative to Jax for Sasha to actually get to choose from. Dial back Jax's completely inappropriate and borderline abusive stalking behaviors by a factor of a hundred, and I might actually start to approve of their romance a little.

Don't pick up this book, unless you enjoy the schadenfreude of reading something that is so horrible, it's actually kind of amazing.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

3 comments:

  1. Worst book you've ever read? That's really saying something! Thanks for the advance warning.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hmmmm..... I just read another review where that person thought the book was okay. Obviously, this book didn't resonate with you.... and now, I'm thinking I might not like it, either.

    Always happy to read an honest review, so thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. It was so awful, that I loved it. It took badly-written hideousness to a whole new level!

    ReplyDelete

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