The Devil Makes Three by Tori Bovalino

Posted August 1, 2021 by jrsbookr in Horror / 0 Comments

by Tori Bovalino
The Devil Makes Three by Tori BovalinoThe Devil Makes Three Published by Page Street Publishing on August 10, 2021
Source: Netgalley Arc
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Horror, Young Adult Fiction / Monsters
Pages: 368
Format: Ebook Arc
Buy on Amazon

When Tess and Eliot stumble upon an ancient book hidden in a secret tunnel beneath the school library, they accidentally release a devil from his book-bound prison, and he’ll stop at nothing to stay free. He’ll manipulate all the ink in the library books to do his bidding, he’ll murder in the stacks, and he’ll bleed into every inch of Tess’s life until his freedom is permanent. Forced to work together, Tess and Eliot have to find a way to re-trap the devil before he kills everyone they know and love, including, increasingly, each other. And compared to what the devil has in store for them, school stress suddenly doesn’t seem so bad after all.


The Devil Makes Three is an extraordinary goth and demonic debut casting the perfect blend of the contemporary, horror, and fantasy genres. The setup is perfect a library that is home to an array of magical grimoires, a human who works their pulling books from the stacks for patrons, and a witch trying to use his witching abilities to save his dying mother. The angst relationship between Eliot Birch and Tess Matheson drips with romance waiting to bloom. The intrigued of the ink bleeding from the books and the demon/devil trying to make a bargain with Tess was deliciously creepy. I did have an issue believing this was a high school library. It would have been more believable if Tess attended a college with a high school boarding school nearby for her sister. Overall the plot kept me reading as I had to know how our witch and human would put the demon/devil back in the book.

First Chapter Excerpt

Tess Matheson was one of the few people on campus who didn’t think that the Jessop English Library was haunted. This wasn’t because of a lack of belief in the paranormal. Tess, who’d grown up under the watchful presence of a host of ghosts that haunted her family’s central Pennsylvania farmhouse, considered herself to have a particularly keen sixth sense. The Jessop Library never gave her any hair-raising or spine-tingling sensations beyond the regular chills from the abnormally forceful air conditioner.

If anything was haunting Jessop, it was Tess Matheson herself. And for the first time in her employment there, she was late for work. A miscalculation on her part: too long spent playing her cello, stealing whatever time to practice she could.

She considered her options as she power walked up Dawson Street and took a detour through the alley between her favorite Indian restaurant and a frat house. It was possible she would get there in time—but no, she couldn’t vault over the chain-link fence of the parking lot in her favorite pair of white lace shorts. Another miscalculation.

It was also possible that Aunt Mathilde wouldn’t notice that Tess was late. Possible, but unlikely.

Mathilde—or Ms. Matheson, to the rest of the students at Falk—had a reputation. There used to be three other students working at Jessop before they violated Mathilde’s strict code of conduct. One, a sophomore, had accidentally spilled coffee on some printouts that belonged to Dr. Birch. The second, a junior, was let go after he let a student check out books from a senior’s research carrel. The final student was released the first week of summer after showing up late.

Just like Tess.

And that wasn’t counting the students who’d been fired before Tess even got to Falk, the ones Regina was all too happy to tell her about. Part of Tess wondered if the only reason she’d managed to get a work-study there was because they couldn’t keep anyone employed at Jessop for very long.

Tess threw open the heavy door of the English building and rushed through the hallways to Jessop. It was early enough in the morning that she was the only one in the hallways. The building smelled of lemon-scented cleaner and pencil shavings. Normally, this was one of Tess’s favorite times of day, when the building was quiet and clean and deserted. But today, when she punched her ID number into the keypad outside of the door, the clock read 9:07.

Everything was terrible.

“Theresa?” she heard, barely before she had the door open. No matter how many times Tess had asked Mathilde to call her by her nickname, her great aunt always used the same incorrect pronunciation of her full one. It was always “Tur-eh-sa” to Aunt Mathilde, never “Tess” or “Tar-ee-sa” or even her sister’s personal favorite, “Tessy.”

“Sorry I’m late,” Tess said, pulling open the other door until it clicked into place. She knew Mathilde hated excuses more than anything, so she didn’t bother offering any. Instead, Tess took the velvet display case covers from Mathilde’s pale, withered hands and set to folding them.

Mathilde sighed. There was something unspoken in that small noise. A warning. A you-know-what-strings-I-had-to-pull-to-get-you-here. And worse, the stern look at Tess that said if-anyone-else-was-here-I-couldn’t-ignore-this. She wrapped her ever-present cardigan around her thin shoulders and shuffled towards her office. “I have a stack of requests for you to find. I’ll bring them out.”

It was only when Mathilde was out of sight that Tess felt her shoulders relax. She slipped her bag off and stowed it under the circulation desk, taking a deep breath of dusty air.

The Jessop English Library was the undeniable golden child of Falk University Preparatory Academy’s campus. The reading room was paneled with shining wood and lined with five floors of balconies. Each floor had fifteen offices, which seniors used in their last year of studying as they put together their final projects. If Tess was still here for her senior year, she’d claim one on the fifth floor, where she could spend all day looking down at the reading room instead of bustling around it.

“Theresa?” Mathilde called again, as if Tess had run away in the time her great aunt had spent walking to her office and back. Mathilde walked halfway into the reading room and abruptly stopped, like going any further would mean spontaneous combustion. She held a book in one hand and a nauseatingly large stack of requests in the other. “Can you find these?”

“Okay,” Tess said, taking the papers. It wasn’t like she had a choice. Usually, someone requested a couple of books at a time, maybe as many as ten. This stack, though… Tess thumbed through the papers. She gave up counting when she got to twenty-five.

“It’s a big one,” Mathilde said. Her voice was as thin and frail as old paper. When Tess was younger, Mathilde always made her think of a story her mother used to tell her, about a woman who died and became a butterfly. In Tess’s eyes, Mathilde, who’d never been young for as long as Tess had been alive, was half butterfly wings herself.

“Do your best not to be late again, dear,” Mathilde said, giving Tess another significant look before turning back to her office. She didn’t tell Tess she got special treatment. She didn’t have to.

Tess counted more from the stack of requests. This many would take her hours to locate, if not days. And the stack was another reminder that she’d be spending her summer here, in Jessop, or at Emiliano’s, where she waited tables.

This was not a comfortable home, no matter how much she tried to rearrange herself into a Falk-shaped box, no matter how much she worked to act like she loved this, if only to convince Nat.

On days like this, when she still had the memory of the scent of dewy grass in her nose and the sun shone vividly through the windows, the idea of sitting in the library was unbearable. It was one of those thick, rare mornings that flung itself right into summer, made for spreading blankets on the quad and rolling her tank top over her ribs to catch some sunlight. It didn’t help that today was a Wednesday, which meant that her library jail time would be followed by an extended probation at Emiliano’s.

And now, she couldn’t even sit in a patch of sunlight and pretend she was outside—because she had to go to the stacks and find those books.

She grabbed a cart and steered it back to the staff area. Jessop was a closed stack system, which meant that patrons weren’t allowed past the reading room. The seven floors of books were only accessible to staff, who had to pull everything. Even so, the stacks were a little too secure. To get back there, she had to use a staff key to unlock the door to the stacks and another key if she needed into the cages.

The smell of dust, faded ink, and old paper immediately surrounded her. There was no metallic tinge of technology back here, no hair-and-skin scent of other humans. In the stacks, Tess was alone, surrounded by ink and paper.

She was in a sour mood by the time she keyed herself into the cage on the first floor. This was her second-least favorite part of the stacks. On the first floor, there was barely any Wi-Fi and never any people. It was impossible to tell what noises were from the old building shifting and what were from a potential axe murderer coming to kill her in the depths of the library.

On the bright side, it wasn’t the basement. The basement cage was even worse.

Instead of focusing too much on the noises, Tess put in her headphones and flipped to the concerto she was practicing for Friday. She could wall herself off, imagine the movements of her own hands over the body of her cello as she worked. When she couldn’t hear any of her thoughts over the sound of Barber, she flipped to the first of the requests and began to search.

All the books were for the same patron: Birch, Eliot. Status: FUFAC. Really, it was unfortunate, Tess thought, that Falk leaned into the F-U branding.

It was like this. Person: Where do you go to school?

Tess: Falk. FUA Prep.

Person: Well, FU too!

Tess: withers in exhaustion.

The same thing, repeated over and over again. It didn’t matter that Falk was one of the best high schools in Pennsylvania. That nearly every graduate got a full ride to college for either academic achievement or from the trustees. It was always just FU.

And to make matters worse, Tess knew exactly who Eliot Birch, FUFAC, was. She could see the cruel curl of his thin upper lip and the glint in his brown eyes. Though she’d never heard his first name, Eliot Birch could be none other than Dr. Birch, the headmaster.

Unfortunately, Dr. Birch was one of the first people she’d met at the school. Tess and her sister Nat’s enrollment at Falk was the result of years of favors to Mathilde called in at once. Their presence broke multiple rules: no students admitted midterm, no students admitted without entrance exams, no scholarships awarded for the year past January. They were only here because of Mathilde’s flawless thirty-year record at the school and the board’s general respect for her.

It also wasn’t a secret that Tess didn’t fit in. She and Nat weren’t wealthy, like the regular kids. Nor was Tess anywhere near smart enough to be a scholarship student there, even if Nat was. If anything, Tess scraped by here and would’ve been out of luck if her roommate Anna hadn’t tutored her.

Based on her brief, tense meeting with Dr. Birch, it was clear no matter what Tess or Nat did to prove themselves, he would never think them worthy of places at his school.

But that was the arrangement they had. Tess and Nat were admitted to Falk based on nepotism alone—not that they didn’t have good grades back home, which they did, Nat especially. But grades were such a small factor in the decision of who was accepted into the school.

It was not a comfortable agreement, and she was reminded of that every time she had the misfortune of running into Dr. Birch. But she cared about Nat’s future, and so it she dealt with it.

At least, this time, she could take some enjoyment in the easy insult that was already there. Every time she added to the ridiculous Dr. Birch’s stack, who she considered to be one of the authors of her misery, she was rewarded with FUCK YOU FAC. Book one: Magyc and Ritual. Birch, Eliot. Fuck you too. Book two: Witches of Southern Wales. Birch, Eliot. Fuck you again, Birch. Book seven: Alchemy of the Stars. Birch, Eliot. Fuck you a thousand times to the Milky Way and back again.

By book twenty-three (Rituals of the British Isles), she was pretty certain the headmaster could feel the force of her annoyance from whatever hellhole he occupied around campus.

And she wasn’t even a quarter of the way through the request stack yet.

There were a million things she could’ve been doing: practicing the concerto for Friday, conducting in front of a mirror, checking in on Nat. All these options were more desirable than being in this cage, where she felt more trapped in this dull life than anywhere else on campus.

“Theresa?” Mathilde’s thin voice floated down the stairs in the silence between the concerto ending and beginning again.

Tess abandoned the books half-loaded into the dumbwaiter and ducked out of the cage. She could just see Mathilde’s thin, wrinkled ankles and orthopedic flats at the top of the stairs above her.

“I’m coming,” Tess called, pulling her headphones out and looping them around the back of her neck. She hurried up the stairs, stopping a couple of steps below Mathilde. “What do you need?”

“Are you busy?”

It took all of Tess’s effort not to roll her eyes. Of course she was busy.

“I can make some time,” she hedged.

“A few requests came in.” She had another unbearable stack of papers in her hand.

It was one of those moments when Tess fantasized about quitting. She’d done this a few times, mostly during spring semester, when the sting of turning down her music scholarship and choosing Falk instead was still searing on her skin. But in the end, she’d made this choice months ago. Coming to Falk was the only way to make sure Nat’s future was taken care of.

Tess held her hand out for the stack. Mathilde passed it to her, saying, “Take your time.”

She glanced down at the name on the pages. Birch, Eliot. FUFAC.

Hopefully, Dr. Birch would find some sort of protection charm in the magical books he was requesting. Because if not, Tess was fairly certain that she was going to murder him.

She had to send the first round of books up the dumbwaiter to the cart so they wouldn’t be in an ungainly pile in the cage. Tess darted up the stairs to the cart and was passing the office supply closet when she noticed the boxes full of sticky notes.

Tess considered the closet. It would make her feel better to write down what she really thought, especially since she could just crumple up the notes and toss them later. And she had her favorite pen tucked behind her ear, already inked with California Teal.

She hated how awful she felt, both because of her job and her tenuous position at Falk. She hated even more that Birch had power over her—that everyone had power over her, and that she had so little of her own.

It would eliminate some of the tedium, at least. One reckless, wasteful thing that she would obviously clean up before there were consequences. Tess grabbed a stack of sticky notes.

When she got back down to the stacks with the notes, she didn’t hold back. Every few books got a bright yellow square with a new, horrid thought about Eliot Birch.

Eliot Birch is a fuckmonkey.

Eliot Birch’s family tree must be a cactus because everyone on it is a prick.

Eliot Birch’s birth certificate is an apology letter from the condom factory.

When she had Wi-Fi, she googled one-liners. When she didn’t, she entertained herself by coming up with the crassest insults she could imagine. By the time Mathilde called down to tell her that it was nearly 4:00, the carts of books were peppered with sticky notes of insults.

When Tess changed for Emiliano’s, she had a trace of a smile. She almost felt better about Dr. Birch as a human being.





Rating Report
Overall: 3.5