One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish — only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city’s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary "gifts." But as the students claw their way up — reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty — they start to suffer the sideeffects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary reimagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption.
First, just in case you don't know it, I wanted to let you know what the title was all about. So I went to Wikipedia and scooped the story.
A deal with the Devil, or a Faustian bargain is a Western cultural motif, best exemplified by the legend of Faust. The pact is between a person and Satan or any other demon; the person offers his or her soul in exchange for diabolical favors. Those favors vary by the tale, but tend to include youth, knowledge, wealth, or power. The price of the Fiend's service is the wagerer's soul. Sometimes the tale has a moralizing end, with eternal damnation for the foolhardy venturer. Conversely it may have a comic twist, in which a wily peasant outwits the Devil, characteristically on a technical point. (Reference: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deal_with_the_Devil)
Authors Daniel and Dina Nayeri do an excellent job with this cautionary and twisty story. Dark and seductive, the story both entices and repels... Just how far will the characters go to get what they want?
As I was drawn into the world of the makeshift family, I came to hope that each would find their way out of the horrible trap their 'governess' Madame Vileroy had created for each. Still, I was never quite sure if any of them would actually escape to freedom. *MILD SPOILER IN NEXT SENTENCE* And even though one or more do walk away from her schemes, they must still deal with the dark results of their choices.
Each character has a 'gift' given to them by Vileroy, and at the same time, they have some weakness or character flaw which they must either conquer or embrace. The most interesting aspect of the book is the overriding sense of loneliness each character embodies. Each of the five has a terrible fear or shame that pushes them away from even their closest friends. I think many teenagers will relate to the fears and secrets of the characters: Victoria, the power-hungry over-achiever; Christian, the skilled athlete and thief; Bice, who only wants to hide; Belle, as beautiful as she is odorous; and Valentin, the liar with the soul of a poet.
Really good writing, with sections told from each character's viewpoint and perfectly placed plot twisters, keep the story moving. Little snippets from various Faustian bargains through-out history entice the reader to consider the consequences of bargains made with the devil.