“I would say it’s a pleasure to meet thee, Prosperity Oceanus Redding, but truly, I anticipate the delights of destroying thy happiness.”
Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn’t exactly the forgiving type.
The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.
Little does Prosper know, the malefactor’s control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there’s a lot Alastor isn’t telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host.
CW: death of a loved one, graphic injury, gore
I almost regret reading this book in May, because it’s a PERFECT read for fall. The story starts in a town with shady colonial roots, features spooky encounters with demons, goblins, and changelings, and there is much eating of pumpkin parts. So many pumpkins. Also spiders, but that’s kind of gross and I don’t want to get into it lol.
Anyway, this might be the most fun I’ve had with a middle grade book in a while! I don’t read them as much as YA since I’m so much farther from the target audience, and they don’t always resonate super strongly with me. This time, though, everything about Prosper Redding was lively and fun, and even pulled on my heartstrings a little.
I actually really liked Prosper for a lot of reasons. For one, even though he’s not exactly treated well by most people, he really does stick to his principles and try to be a genuinely good human being. On top of that, he cares so much for his twin sister, and wants to protect her on impulse, even though she doesn’t always need that protection. As the oldest sibling of three, I completely understand that impulse, and it was one of the first things that made me love Prosper. He doesn’t always have the power to help, but he sure does try, especially as he gains power and confidence over the course of the book. Prosper Redding is a good kid! So good!
And then there’s Alastor, the malefactor who cursed Prosper’s family, and I’m pretty certain he’s 98% bad, but that 2% good keeps popping up and Alastor keeps trying to pretend it’s not there. He was such a fun foil to Prosper, since he’s selfish and cunning in the ways Prosper isn’t, not to mention he speaks like he’s come from the 17th century (which he technically has) for the first part of the book as he tries to understand how modern language works. His dynamic with Prosper really grows as the book goes on, creating an interesting parasite-like relationship that’s teetering on the edge of proper partnership.
Looking back, I suppose the plot was a little predictable, now that I see where all the side characters stand at the novel’s end, and now that I understand the motives behind their actions. And yet I was so engrossed in the story, having so much fun watching it unfold (it’s delightful watching a couple of 12 year old kids try to solve an extremely dramatic supernatural curse, honestly), that I didn’t actually notice where it was going! It surprised me almost gently, and in a pleasant way. Well, as pleasant as you can get given the way the stakes shot right up into the danger zone at the end, but hey! Still a good surprise because I allowed it to surprise me, didn’t worry about digging too deeply into it.
I suppose the only part about it that I wasn’t head over heels for was the pacing. It has a bit of a lull in the middle where Prosper is just surviving middle school while undercover, and only the moments he spends with Nell, or the chapters where Alastor takes the main POV, are the really interesting one. I just don’t really care to relive the stress of middle school, I suppose. And I don’t love the “new kid, new school” trope too much, though at least this time it wasn’t the cliche first day of school for everyone, which was nice.
Beyond that, though, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding was fun and cheesy Halloween levels of spooky, with an enjoyable cast of characters and the promise of a much more intense sequel to finish things out. I look forward to seeing the direction Alastor and Prosper’s relationship goes, especially given the forces they’ve teamed up against, and I so badly want more page time with Prue, Nell, and [redacted for spoiler reasons, ohohoho…] because they’re so interesting and I so badly want them to have full character arcs alongside Prosper’s.
If you’re into a short read with strong Halloween vibes and a protagonist who’s just trying his best under very unlucky circumstances, this is probably a book for you! Or, if there’s a kid in your life looking for a fun, spooky adventure, try recommending it to them. If they need convincing, let them know there’s also a tiny black cat with bat wings in it too (because cute animals are very convincing, of course). It’s a solid book all around, and fun for pretty much all ages!
Also, I want to mention that I actually won these in a giveaway from Alex Bracken, so the inside of my copy has a note that reads “Enjoy the boooo-k!” and a cute little ghostie in it. A CUTE GHOSTIE, GUYS.
So, have you read The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding yet? Would you ever make a pact with a demon to keep your family safe? Heavy questions this morning, my apologies. But let’s chat!