The Merciless

The Merciless

The Merciless

by Danielle Vega

Genre: YA Horror
Published: June 12th, 2014
by Razorbill




Forgive us, Father, for we have sinned.

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .


At the core, The Merciless truly is a wonderful horror novel, one that doesn’t fail to get under your skin and make you start to bite your nails or scream. However, while the actual horror aspects were something to be admired, I did, however, feel that the character development in this novel was just a bit lacking.

True horror novels in YA really are a thing of rarity. You may have a book that’s categorized as a “horror” novel, but typically those books are vague on the gruesome details. The Merciless is not one of those books. The scenes in this book are displayed in all their gory glory. It is not by any stretch of the imagination something for everyone!

Sofia Flores knows what it’s like to be the new girl after having done it so many times before. So when she, her mother and her grandmother move to a small town in Mississippi, Sofia is determined this town will be different.

When the “popular girls” – Riley, Grace, and Alexis – went out of their way to befriend her, she should have known that was a warning sign of itself. But it’s too late now, because she never saw it coming. They said they wanted to save fellow classmate Brooklyn, but Sofia never realized they believed she was possessed. Now, locked in a house in the middle of the night with Riley and the girls, who are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn, Sofia must find a way to escape…before she ends up being next.

The only thing I didn’t necessarily like about the plot was how it sometimes became unrealistic and required quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. I found it very odd that nobody would notice that these girls were torturing Brooklyn. Surely someone would have heard the screams and cries coming from her house and gone to investigate? And they’re performing this torture in Riley’s house during the middle of the night.View Spoiler »

The character development is not necessarily the strong point here. Rather than actually developing her characters through their actions and words, Vega develops her characters through secrecy. Each character has a secret they’re hiding, and once it is revealed, that reveal supposedly equals character development (which, obviously, isn’t true). This led me to have a real disconnect to the characters in general, which definitely lowered my enjoyment for the story.

Nonetheless, while it might lack a little substance, The Merciless is definitely commendable in terms of its scare and gore factors, and I guess I can give it some brownie points for that, right?


70 thoughts on “The Merciless

  1. I do love horror but I do wince on gory scenes but I’m very interested on just how gory this book can get. I’ve read two YA horror books recently and I also noticed a lack of deep development in terms of certain characters. I still enjoyed it, but I feel like with these type of books the author really focuses more on the scare factor and action rather than character development. I was okay with it, but I feel like this is the type of horror that needs character development so I can see why you feel disconnected in a way. I would still definitely read this though. Awesome review, Zoe! <3

    1. It gets very gory Amir. As in a descriptive page on the removal of someone’s fingernail. *shudders*

      I still enjoyed it, but I feel like with these type of books the author really focuses more on the scare factor and action rather than character development.” This is exactly what happened with this one as well!

      Thanks Amir!

  2. I’m on a horror kick right now. I’ve started reading The Strain, and omg. Creepy! I might be persuaded to read this one. Though, I’m not a fan of books where a Queen Bee exists. :/

    1. I have a feeling you’d like this one if you’re into horror Joy – even if you’re not a fan of those types of characters. 😀

  3. I did answer yes to all of those questions c: I’ve really been interested in Merciless, I feel as if there’s not a large amount of horror within the YA genre and there’s really a lot of untapped potential there. I also do adore those spine tingling descriptions. I do understand why there would be a lack of character development, horror does usually tend to focus on the gore and shock value. It does deal strongly with secrets though, so seeing that in Merciless would be interesting. I always find it intriguing to find out what others are hiding. Though I can suspend my belief, sometimes there’s a breaking point where it just gets ridiculous. Hopefully that won’t hamper my enjoyment of Merciless.

    Oooo! I like that new character chart thing you got c: Sofia seems like the best developed character and the one I’d enjoy the most. Ugh, Riley sounds awful though. I hate that cliche mean girl trope, especially when it goes unexplained.

    Awesome review as always, Zoe! (: <33

    1. I completely agree Larissa! 😀 It seems whenever a YA book is labeled “horror” there’s some scary content, but not really very much, you know? This definitely focuses more on the horror aspect vs. the character development, which I didn’t mind. 🙂

      Thank you! 😀 Sophia is a really interesting character. Her secret is the one that most surprised me actually. Yeah…Riley was definitely a bit underdeveloped. She’s so mean and delusional in thinking Brooklyn is possessed (and torturing her for it!), but we never really learn why she’s that way, you know?

      Thank you! <3

  4. Definitely sounds like one of those scary films where you just watch for the thrills and chills and not really to connect to anyone. I like how you posted about the characters in the box; how fun.

    1. It definitely is like that Lauren! A lot more for the shock factor than the character development. Thank you!

  5. I love gore and I love horror stories but I’m quite scared to pick up this novel because it lacks character development. That’s a huge deal for me and it could really influence how I feel about a book. Thank you for your honest review, Zoe!

    1. Sarah – I completely understand. Characters are everything in books, and you definitely have a reason to be scared! This being said, I’m not sure this would be for you since you like your books with strong characters – even if it is gory and creepy.

      Thank you! <3

  6. Zooooeeee! I was so happy when I saw your review of this on GR hehe.

    I will poke you and tell you you’re wrong on something though! They weren’t performing the exorcism at Riley’s house. It was this in-the-middle-of-nowhere place, when even Brooklyn and Riley’s bf (whatever his name is!) used to go to hook up. It was just this random abandoned building.

    What did you think of the ending (not the Brooklyn thing because, IMO, that was obvious), but Sofia’s secret finally being revealed? I didn’t see that coming!

    1. Hehe…thanks Allie!

      Ooohh…okay! Thanks for correcting me! I kept wondering how her parents wouldn’t have noticed that going on, but that makes so much more sense now. Thank you! 😀 Not sure how I didn’t pick up on that, but oh well! 😉

      I didn’t see it coming either! [spoiler]There were definitely some clues along the way, but I never would have guessed that. I’m interested in seeing how it’s going to play out in book 2 though![/spoiler]

  7. You have totally piqued my interest with this one. I can handle a little gore but the lack of character development might bother me, still though, I do love a good horror book and you are right, there aren’t enough of them in the YA genre.

    1. Yeah! Glad to hear it! 😀 I think this is more for the actual horror aspect than the character development.

  8. Okay. I love reading horror, but once they begin to resemble to horror movies I’ve been forced to watch in the past… no thank you. I need a lot of beauty sleep, and books like this will deprive me of that. xD I love gore-y books, too, but… The synopsis + your review = I am scared. Really scared.

    Lovely review, Zoe! *hides until this book goes away*

    1. LOL! I totally understand Aimee. This definitely can get quite gory at points, and it’s definitely not for everyone. I know you really liked The Girl in the Well, and this has some similarities in the horror aspects, and I actually think you might enjoy it.

      Thank you! <3

  9. Oh! Love a good horror book, but its funny how reading something like that there’s still places where willing suspension of disbelief just won’t kick in. Sometimes that can break a book for me, but sounds like its worth a try.

    1. Lisa – I totally agree! I’m willing to suspend my disbelief until a certain point, and then I start thinking, “Wait…WHAT?” Definitely can be a minor flaw, but I think since the rest of the story is pretty solid, you might be able to forgive it. 🙂

  10. I haven’t heard of this one but just the fact that there are a really gory scenes means I’ll be skipping this one. My stomach cannot take that. But I’m really glad you enjoyed this one and I really admire you for read it. Great review 🙂

    1. Tanja – I totally understand! Some people just aren’t a fan of horror, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Thank you! <3

  11. I think I can deal with gory scenes but to sacrifice character development for plot, I cannot do. It’s a shame, because it seems this debut had incredible potential. But I can’t picture myself rooting for the heroine or for Brooklyn if I can’t fall in love with their character first. Is this a standalone? Or is this a planned series? If this is a planned series, there should be room for character growth, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to wait around for it. I’ll be skipping this one for sure. Thank you for your honest review, Zoe. It really helped me decide if this was for me or not. 🙂

    1. Marlene – I totally see where you’re coming from! Character development is DEFINITELY important.

      I believe this is supposed to be a planned series, but don’t quote me on that! 😉

      Thank you Marlene! That means a lot, and I’m glad to hear it was helpful. xx

  12. I honestly haven’t read any legitimate horror books in the YA category. All “YA horror” seems to mean is “someone is vaguely creeped out for a little bit.” I’m looking forward to what this book has to offer, even if it is only descriptive gore haha.

    1. I honestly haven’t read any legitimate horror books in the YA category. All “YA horror” seems to mean is “someone is vaguely creeped out for a little bit.”

      YES! Oh my gosh! I completely agree! Most YA horror has maybe a scene or two that’s somewhat scary, and the remainder of the book is taken over by a pointless romance or whatnot. This is definitely not one of those books! It’s genuinely creepy through and through – despite any flaws it might have. I have a feeling you’d really like it! xx

  13. Whoa this looks good! I love horror movies, but I haven’t really read any YA horror or horror in general. It’s not that I’ve strayed from it, I just haven’t seen any that looked interesting enough. Great review, Zoe. I’ll have to check this out! I love the gory stuff and the spooks and the scares that come with horror. 🙂

    1. It is really good Rachel! (I must admit…it did keep me up quite a bit at night, so that’s a sign of a decent horror novel, right?!) And I totally get what you mean about not reading any YA horror novels before. Most of them have maybe a scene or two that’s somewhat scary, and the remainder of the book is taken over by a pointless romance or whatnot. This is definitely not one of those books! It’s genuinely creepy through and through – despite any flaws it might have. I have a feeling you’d really like it! xx

  14. Unfortunately all three of those things kind of bother me, aha. Although the gore probably wouldn’t. I 1000% prefer character driven novels and realistic stories xD The horror factor is somewhat appealing though…

    1. Haha! I’m not sure if this would be the book for you then Alise! The character development is a little lacking, and it doesn’t sound like you’d enjoy that. The horror aspect in this story is wonderful though!

  15. I’m intrigued. Very very intrigued…I don’t mind horror and I haven’t read any REALLY gory horror for a while. The problem I’m worried about is the lack of believability. Uhhh, I get hung up on details like that. I think I do want to try this, but maybe not asap? OH. But I love that little widget thingy at the end. That’s so clever!

    1. Cait, this is definitely not as good as some of the other books I’ve told you about recently (Dangerous Girls / We Were Liars), but it’s still definitely worth the read. I know we both get caught up on the believability in books, so I think you should definitely put this on your TBR list, but maybe not right on the top, you know?

      THANKS! <33

    1. Laura – I totally understand! This is definitely not for everyone! Some people just aren’t a fan of horror, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Thank you! <3

  16. Giselle’s review for this one gave me an idea about how intense the gore was and… I don’t think this is something I would enjoy. I am the kind of person who doesn’t like the kind of horror that involves… torture… and all those details *shudders*

    The spoiler about the ending did make me a little happy though. I am glad that after all that mess, that happened O_O Even if it didn’t make sense (seriously though? why didn’t they do that? are they stupid?)

    Plus it sucks that there wasn’t much character development 🙁

    I AM glad you managed to enjoy this overall, though! 🙂

    Lovely review as ALWAYS, Zoe!!! 🙂

    1. It’s pretty intense, right? If you’re not a fan of that type of horror, I’d have to say I’m not sure if this one would be for you.

      I’m glad! 😀 I know…I felt like I should have yelled at them or something! I mean, c’mon! Isn’t it common sense to do that after something like this?

      It definitely does! I think the focus was more on the actual gore than the character development, which definitely made me a bit disappointed.

      Thank you Rashika! <3

  17. I have been looking forward to reading this book because of how it promises true horror but for YA! I loved your little feature at the bottom about each of the characters, too bad some of them seemed to lack development. The secrets thing really reminds me of PLL you know? Lovely review as always Zoe!

    1. Despite its flaws, one thing I did love about this book was the horror. It was absolutely wonderful in its freakishness! 😉

      Thank you! It definitely is a shame that happened, but I think the focus was on the actual horror and gore aspects, so I guess I was a bit more lenient on that then I normally would be. And yes! Now that you mention it…it definitely has some reminiscence to PLL!

      Thanks Jeann! <3

  18. Even just reading about this book gives me chills. The premise has my full attention, and I don’t think I’d mind too much if there are unrealistic moments, as it never bothers me as much when it comes to horror books. I love gory scenes that are written well. I can’t wait to give this a try. I love your review, Zoe! 🙂

    1. I KNOW! Definitely a scary, yet fascinating, premise. I think horror is one of those genres where you can be a bit more lenient than usual on things – specifically the characters and unrealistic moments – if the gore is done well, and that’s definitely the case here 😀 I can’t wait to here what you think Sam! <3 Thank you!

  19. Um. NO. I cannot *hides* I don’tdo well with gore O__O I don’t read (or watch) horror so it’s not for me, but I’m glad you mostly enjoyed, Zoe. Ugh. Ew. I hate exorcism lol. It sound so creepy! I think this looks like it’s meant to be a plot-driven one not a very character-driven one. So.. yeah. And nope secret revealing is NOT character development :/ Sorry it wasn’t an amazing read, but yay that you somewhat enjoyed 🙂

    1. I totally understand Siiri. This is definitely not something for everyone! Some people just don’t do well with horror, and there’s nothing wrong with that! 😀

      It is definitely a plot-driven book!

      Thank you Siiri! <3

    1. Yeah! I’m glad it sounds like something you’d enjoy Maddy! If you like well-written horror scenes, this is definitely something that won’t disappoint! Be prepared to stay awake for a long time though! 😉

    1. SO glad to hear you’re intrigued by this one Sandee! 😀
      Thank you! <3

      (And no, it doesn't! It's funny because who knew a book with a pink cover would be so gory!)

  20. So far I’ve been seeing so many mixed reviews for this one, and I’m starting to feel really conflicted and disappointed because it has such an awesome and gruesome premise! For once, WHY can’t a YA book that sounds good actually BE that good, you know?! I think my main problem would be the fact that this book is more plot-driven than anything else. I used to value plot over character, but now I’m beginning to realize that characters are what give the book life, so if there is too little of that… I’m not so sure I’ll be able to enjoy the book much.

    The one thing that I’m happy about is the fact that there is loads of gore here. I agree, YA books marketed as “horror” isn’t really horror… Publishers think that just because ghosts or spirits are involved means that a book is going to be scary, so it’s always disappointing when the gore aspect is lacking. I love that Danielle Vega didn’t shy away from graphically violent scenes at all! (That gif, though. xD)

    Yeah, this book sounds kind of convenient as well. It’s like the author never really thought things through — or was lazy to — before writing, which would prove to be a problem. Still, don’t think the unrealistic parts will bother me as much as how flat-sounding the characters are. I’m sad that none of these characters were given backstories or were fully developed. Worse still, they’re cliche.

    I’m going to have to think things through if I want to still read this! The premise sounds awesome, and I might read it just for an actual YA horror. DECISIONS. Either way, fantastic review, Zoe! Thanks for being so incredibly detailed. <3

    1. There have definitely been mixed reviews on this Meg! I know! It’s always so disappointing when a summary is misleading! 🙁 The lack of character development in this one bothered me, but I think this was more for the horror than the characterization.

      AND YES! ABSOLUTELY! Most YA horror has maybe a scene or two that’s somewhat scary, and the remainder of the book is taken over by a pointless romance or whatnot. This is definitely not one of those books! It’s genuinely creepy through and through – despite any flaws it might have. (And that GIF was totally a selfie of me while I was reading this! xD)

      I think you should still put this on your TBR, but maybe not on the top, you know? 😉 Thank you for always leaving the loveliest comments Meg! <33

  21. I think I can answer yes to those questions. I’ve had my eye on this, and I needed a review like yours to help me decide. It’s hard to find really good horror. I wonder if I can get by with putting this in my library. Probably need to read it first. Thanks so much. Great review!

    1. Yeah! I’m glad you’re intrigued Annette! 😀 It is definitely hard to find good horror – especially in the YA genre, because most books marketed as “horror” usually end up just having only one or two moderately scary scenes, you know?

      Thank you! I hope you get a chance to read it! 😀

    1. Lexxie – I completely understand your concern! It’s never fun to have to suspend your disbelief, and this is definitely one of the books where you do. I’d definitely have you put it on your TBR shelf – just maybe not at the top! 😉

      Thank you! <3

  22. I read another review of this book somewhere (I’m so sorry if it was yours and I’m somehow repeating my comment, LOL) but I really love the sound of this book. The cover is so misleading! Who knew a pink cover could hold such a gory book? LOL. I don’t read nearly enough horror, but I don’t mind it. I actually always look for more horror in my reads!

    While you didn’t enjoy much the character development, I am glad you enjoyed the book!

    Fabulous review, Zoe!

    1. It is a really well-done horror book Marianne! If you’re a fan of the genre, you won’t be disappointed! And LOL…my thoughts exactly!

      I don’t read nearly enough horror, but I don’t mind it. I actually always look for more horror in my reads!

      YES! Oh my gosh! I completely agree! Most YA horror has maybe a scene or two that’s somewhat scary, and the remainder of the book is taken over by a pointless romance or whatnot. This is definitely not one of those books! It’s genuinely creepy through and through!

      Thank you Marianne! <3

    1. Sorry this doesn’t sound like something that would be up your alley Ana. I completely understand though – it’s not by any stretch of the imagination a book for everyone. There are some people who just don’t do well with horror books, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

      Thank you! <3

  23. I can’t stop playing with the little character menu.

    This sounds incredibly confronting and I’m.really on the fence. I’m one of those who really can’t handle horror, so being so descriptive, not sure it would be my thing. Oh, I know, you should totally send me a copy with all the gory bits blacked out with a sharpie 😀
    Fabulous review, but unless you’re armed with that sharpie, think I’ll have to give this one a miss.

    1. Hehe! 😉

      Hmm…if you’re not a fan of really descriptive horror, I’m interested in seeing what you think about this. I’ll totally send you a copy with the gory details Sharpie-d out. (Although, that’s pretty much the whole book – LOL!)

      Thanks Kelly!

  24. I absolutely agree that the gore-y details were truly, truly gorey O_O Like whoa, I can handle some pretty freaky stuff, but the ones here made me want to shield my eyes from the text! And you’re absolutely right about the characters… I was so disappointed that their characterisation was only limited to the secrets they’ve told about themselves, but I guess in a way, that’s to be expected of a book whose main purpose I think is only to give the shock factor.

    1. They so were! 😀 I definitely agree. This seemed to be mainly for the horror factor, and in that case, it definitely succeeded!

  25. I LOVE books with gory details 😀 I can’t stand it in movies, but it can make a book so good. For some reason I can handle it when I read about it. I also don’t mind plot-driven, although I’m a bit on the fence about the third point. I think I will give it a shot, thanks!

    1. So do I Mel! 😀 I’m the same way. I can’t see it happening, but I can read about it. I guess that’s because it just doesn’t feel as real to me? Thanks!

  26. I can’t decide on this one. I am a bit of a wimp, and the gory details would probably make me want to throw the book across the room. I am just too much of a wimp for all that.

    It seems to have a lot going for it, but the lack of character development would really bother me.

    I am still trying to decide on this one.

    1. If the gory details don’t sound like your thing and the lack of characterization bothers you, I’d say it’s probably best to stay away from this one unless you want a mediocre book. But, of course, it’s ultimitely up to you!

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