I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Grounded for All Eternity by Darcy Marks. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Grounded for All Eternity, Malachi—Mal for short—dwells in a suburban part of Hell. But he’s a normal teen otherwise. After all, he’s nervous about next school year because he and his friends will soon be separated to learn their specialized skills. Sure, they’ll still be a team, but things will be different when they have to start working after they finish school. He’s determined to enjoy their last week of vacation in their suburban town, but things go off the rails when they’re put under a lockdown. Someone from one of the eternal circles has escaped. Hearing this, the kids venture outside their homes, but soon find themselves accidentally falling through the veil and landing on Earth—on Halloween, of course. Worst off all, the escaped soul has come with them, and now Malachi and his friends have to find him and bring him home before their parents learn what they’ve done.
When I first heard about this book, I thought it sounded weird but in a Good Omens kind of way. So naturally I had to read it.
Speaking of Good Omens, it was so disorienting to me that one of the kids’ names is Crowley. And he lives in Hell. And the first time we see him, he’s wearing sunglasses. Coincidence? I think not.
However, this Crowley doesn’t have quite as much devious-but-secretly-sorta-kind character as Good Omens Crowley. And I would have liked a little more depth and information on all the characters, even Malachi, though I feel that I know him best since he’s the point-of-view character. Still, the little squad is a fun one. I also enjoyed the addition of the two humans, Sean and Charity, and seeing how the kids from Hell interacted and reacted to them. I especially liked how Marks clearly and casually dropped in the fact that Malachi is in no way heterosexual. I can only hope that a love triangle doesn’t develop (as it seems there might be a sequel?).
There’s a nice theme in this book about not judging people based on stereotypes and secondhand information alone. It’s not really subtle, but still—it’s an important lesson for kids, and this is as good a way to learn it as any, I guess. I also liked how this showcases the importance of teamwork and trust, and how keeping secrets can sometimes cause harm.
However, I did have a few issues, mostly with worldbuilding. For one thing, I wanted a more clear explanation of how the kids’ powers worked, and what exactly Sean and Charity were, beyond the vague “witches” mention. I kind of felt as if I were waiting the entire time for a discussion between Mal and the Earth kids about what, really, their magic could do and how it worked, but I never quite got it. I was able to piece enough together to follow the story, but still.
I also wasn’t very impressed with the antagonist. I mean, I did enjoy the reference to real life events in Salem, but the character’s main goal and his behavior was a little too mustache-twirling, evil-laughter villainy for my taste. He didn’t intimidate me at all (though I will allow that the action in the final confrontation was pretty good).
In the end, Grounded for All Eternity was weird, but that’s what I expected. It’s a good story for Halloween, and a decent debut novel. It didn’t blow me away, but I still had fun seeing this team up between beings from Hell and magically-inclined humans. (Still a bit thrown off by the appearance of another Crowley, though…)
Grounded for All Eternity will be published on July 26th, 2022!