Grubbs Grady sees his family horribly killed and is taken in by his father’s mysterious brother who explains that the family is cursed and that he must learn to defend himself from demons and to play chess to help fight the curse. Along with Billy, a local lad, Grubbs believes that his uncle is secretly a werewolf but things turn out differently and Grubbs finds himself battling a demon master and his demon servants.

I won’t keep you long: if you have any reservations about demons, black magic, grotesque and horrific deaths or werewolfs then walk away from this book. If, however, you’re not that bothered about lightweight horror-fodder aimed at young teenage boys then read on…

While the story’s definitely not for the squeamish, the demons are just stock-uglies from a parallel dimension, and their master a grotesque enemy with a suave manner and penchant for playing chess. There is a black-magic-style ritual carried out by Dervish to summon Lord Lost, the demon master, but there’s no suggestion that the demons are at all connected to any religious structure whatsoever. The subject of souls does come up as they are the trophy collected by Lord Loss if he wins a chess match. This soul is the animating force behind a human, but without it the body continues to function but without any obvious personality.

The author’s certainly out to shock: by the end of the third chapter, Grubbs’ loving father, mother and older sister have been slaughtered, his house destroyed and Grubbs himself committed to a lunatic asylum. He’s rescued from this place after an unexplained period by Uncle Dervish, who explains the details of the family curse, but also fairly casually points out that Grubbs’ father habitually slept around when away on business and that another character is in fact Grubb’s half-brother. Dervish’s friend Meera is knowlingly provocative in front of the two teenage boys, unzipping tight biking leathers to reveal T-shirt and shorts and later spilling milk down her front. Dervish himself describes them as “not an item” and jokes about “pulling” one of the barmaids in the village pub. The author succeeds in the book’s obvious intent: to be an undemanding shockfest for young teenagers, with a few mildly objectionable aspects on top.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London. He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.