Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Adventure, Crime
After finding himself narrowly escaping Jet’s group the first time, Cage sets his sights on a different method to bring his son down: shape him to Cage’s own ways to weaken his guard. However, the Rat Pack has a different idea, and they know what Cage is trying to do. As they continue to pursue Cage, the group adds three oddballs to their official posse: the son of an old ally and a pair of skilled new teens (plus a frog), who know their way around men like Cage like a goldfish knows its bowl. With strong allies backing him up every step of the way, Jet sets his sights firmly on bringing Cage down. But when the Rat Pack discovers a revelational piece of Cage’s history in old documents found locked away in a file cabinet, and Cage’s plan begins to work, Jet finds himself torn, not knowing how, or even if, to continue his hunt.
I’ve been very excited to find out what happens next in this series and book 2 did not disappoint! Some of the heat on our band of misfits known as the Rat Pack seems to have died down after the events of book 1, but in this installment, we find Jet’s and Robert’s grim game of tag even more intense.
‘The Devil’s Game’ returns with the same clever and unique oddballs as the first as well as a few new faces which are just as interesting as the old ones. Although Ted with the infinite accessories hidden in his coat was my favorite character in book 1, I believe ink-covered Winter has taken that spot. What I like best is the intricacy of these two characters’ interactions and past relationship, which is something also explored more with Robert and his son Jet.
While in book 1, the events that led to Jet’s disappearance and the two main gangster organization’s involvement seems to be absolutely set in stone, the author delves further into how and why those things came to pass. More details emerge that not only leaves the reader in suspense, but creates moral and logical conflict within the characters themselves. Are the bad guys as bad as once believed? or is there more blame to be shared by those mostly staying in the background?
This aspect of gray morality, manipulation, and distrust is something I adore in stories when the author pulls it off properly and thus far, E.P. Spiegel has done just so. ‘The Devil’s Game’ takes the time to expose greater thoughts and emotions surrounding both the insidious Robert Cage as well as the seemingly fairly neutral Mr. Duke. Although I had first relegated Cage to the role of villain, I now wonder the true reason for his actions. It appears that regardless of his misdeeds, Cage is not a simple psychopath, but perhaps an emotionally stable man who has slipped into delusions because of the life he has been forced to lead.
Not that I’m excusing his actions, of course, but the depth and grayness the author has added to Cage as well as other characters in this sequel does create more questions and even sympathy. What seemed a pretty straight-forward sense of wrong in book 1 has become a matter of multiple aspects and angles for the reader to ponder.
The author seems to have a knack for crafting intriguing and unpredictable plot lines. Without spoiling anything, I believe that this sequel had even more inventive scenarios than the first. This includes more information on how these mobsters remain hidden and safe, their long-standing friendships, and the ways in which the characters use means of escape and fighting which are not blatant or typical. One would assume such gangs rely heavily on firearms for their deeds and while these things are present, the author incorporates many alternative means to conduct their deeds in a way that would make it harder for them to be caught.
Through a nearly continuous string of action, there are also several moments of emotion and uncertainty. One example is when Jet and Robert once again meet face to face, only to have some fond reminiscence and unresolved feelings. In this scene, the author writes how despite getting briefly lost in pleasant memories, the father and son are still contemplating the other’s murder while sitting only three feet apart. That line really stuck out to me, tugging at my heart with a sense of lost love, yet knowing there was only a violent outcome to be had.
I also wanted to note all the things the author has done to make every character unique, interesting, and believable. Every member of the Rat Pack has clear quirks, different skills, and even fears. In addition, this book appears to add more of these things to every other character too. I love the callback to ‘Ted’s Rules of Life’ and the contrast between Mr. Duke’s dynamic with his family and Robert Cage’s dynamic with his, despite both showing in their own sense a love for their kin. I believe the opposing displays toward loved ones is something that many people can relate to in some way.
So contrary to the feeling that the cause and goal of the series was absolute, I now realize with ‘The Devil’s Game’ that there is MUCH more to be told. As I reached the end of this book, I realized that all these new questions would not yet be answered so I am now craving the next in the series.
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~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden
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