The Devil’s Only Friend – Dan Wells

About the Book

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.

When John again faces evil, he’ll know what he has to do.
The Devil’s Only Friend is the first book in a brand-new John Wayne Cleaver trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells.

272 pages (paperback)
Published on June 16, 2015
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage
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This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

I thought, for some reason that the John Cleaver story was over after I Don’t Want to Kill You. I’m really, really glad I was wrong. The Devil’s Only Friend is the fourth book in what I (wrongly) assumed was a trilogy.

Let me be clear, you don’t have to read the previous books in the series to appreciate this one. It is very, very easy to pick this one up and take off from there. While previous books might give readers a greater nuanced view of John Cleaver, Wells does a great job at catching readers up without really holding them down with infodumps.

John Cleaver is now working with the FBI, and his previous history with the withered is a boon to what he is doing with them. Seeing how John works with a team is quite humorous, but it also gives readers a good insight into what exactly makes him tick. He has his rules, and he has his code. No one really understands him, and he is pretty apathetic toward everyone else. Wells really nailed John Cleaver, and in his own way, he brings readers into the head of a character who can be hard to relate to and he manages to make him shockingly relatable.

John is older now, and he’s a bit more jaded and tested by life than he was before. His rules are evolving, and his ability to handle the randomness of life often throws a cog in his wheel and challenges him in ways that many of us wouldn’t be challenged. His personal struggle to cope with life is often just as interesting and dynamic as the external things effecting him and the situations he finds himself in. Not only that, but early on in the novel John meets with a secondary character from previous novels who ends up being a sort of secret weapon of sorts throughout the book. This character is a welcome addition, but his interaction with said character is pretty revealing, and intimate in ways I didn’t expect it to be. Both of their developments were superbly done, and nothing short of captivating.

The secondary characters come and go, and Wells is quite brutal with how he treats his cast and crew. They don’t get as much fleshing out or limelight as John, but that’s okay because John really is where the interest is. However, he’s uncomfortably honest with all of his characters, not only John but also the secondary characters and the withered. No one is really “good” or “evil.” Even the withered, the demon-like creatures that John hunts down are driven by what they lack, and seek out that thing that can (sort of) make them whole. The treatment of these (sort of) antagonists really humanizes them and makes them more interesting. They aren’t just big baddies, but when they are boiled down, at times they can be pretty pathetic in their own ways.

The plot moves very quickly (though the ending felt a tad bit rushed). Wells moves things along quite relentlessly and treats his characters just as relentlessly as he treats the plot. There is a lot of action and a lot of blood. There are quite a few uncomfortable moments, but I tend to like that sort of thing as it keeps me on my toes and thinking. This isn’t really horror (though there are some horrific moments). It’s not really urban fantasy (or is it?) and it’s not really magic realism (I think…). I don’t know what it is. I always have a hard time pinning down Dan Wells novels, and that’s part of what makes them so damn incredible. The writing is stunning, and the story is absolutely addicting, and I can’t ever figure out what box to stuff it in. It’s never one thing and it’s never another. It’s purely its own. We need more books like that in the genre.

The Devil’s Only Friend blew me away. This is a stunning installment to a series that made its mark on me early on. Part psychological thriller, part horror, part… whatever. This really is its own animal, and Wells improves by leaps and bounds in every book I read. He’s honed his craft. This is John Cleaver, and Dan Wells, at their best.

5/5 stars

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