4 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Messengers by Edward Hogan

The MessengersTitle: The Messengers

Author: Edward Hogan

Genre: Horror, Young Adult

Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: September 2 2013
Paperback: 224 Pages

“Perhaps we’re here to save a few people. Maybe that’s the gift.”

When fifteen-year-old Frances is sent down to the coast to Helmstown, to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin, she meets and befriends Peter Kennedy, a somewhat tramp-like character who lives in a beach hut along the seafront. As soon as they meet, Peter recognizes that Frances is a messenger, just like him. As messengers, they experience black-outs, and when they come round, they have the ability to draw, in minute detail, the scene of an accident. Although Frances can’t change the past, she realises that she can change the future, at least for a chosen few.

Another compelling and thrilling novel for teenagers by the author of the highly acclaimed Daylight Saving.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the publishers

Format (e- or p-): Print ARC

Why did I read this book: I requested this review copy from the publishers because it sounded so great.


15-year-old Frances has just been sent down the coast to Helmstown to spend time with her aunt. Her mother has had an emotional breakdown and had distanced herself from Frances after her brother got in trouble with the police and went on the run.

Frances has a secret she has been keeping for a while: she has black-outs and when she comes round, she sketches – these are mysterious drawings that have become clearer and clearer as she grows old.

When in Helmstown she meets Peter Kennedy, someone who not only understands her black-outs but who seems to have all the answers. Peter tells Frances that they are messengers of Death and that the scenes they both draw show people they don’t know at a crucial moment in their lives: their death. As messengers they are duty-bound to track the people they draw and to somehow make them come into contact with their drawings – this will ensure that they die as they should. Here is the twist: if a messenger is not able to deliver their message, one of their loved ones will die. And they need to do it within 48 hours.

The Messengers was kind of a funny read for me. On the one hand, it was a pretty engaging and fast read with a story that progressed well, that had a great secondary story featuring the relationship between Frances and her beloved brother. It is also a thought-provoking theme of free will, choice and changing the future. And whoa: what a gutsy ending.

On the other hand, I can’t help but to point out how convoluted the main conceit is to the point where it tainted my reading experience. This is crucial I think: despite the fact that I liked how messed-up the premise is in what it means to the messengers themselves, it is such a ludicrous premise that I wasn’t able to suspend disbelief at all, despite how much I wanted to.

Basically, it is hard to buy into the fact that Death (or the Universe, or the Great Beyond) would work on such a longwinded way: its messengers get a message they barely understand, to be sent to someone they don’t know and whose whereabouts they need to find like detectives in order to deliver this message within 48 hours OR ELSE.

I mean, why?

I understand this is horror and sometimes horror doesn’t have a why but seriously? Even the fact that Frances was able to find a measure of peace and of choice in the end, doesn’t make up for the fact that this is not a horror story that is applicable to only these two characters, it is an explanation for how the world works.

If the premise weren’t so ridiculous this would have been a great little book. I am curious though about other novels from this author.

Notable Quotes/Parts:

“We’re drawn to each other, us messengers. We must be. I remember the first time I saw him, down by the beach huts. There was something about him. The look of him. How could I not go over?
You might even say it was fate, but I don’t believe that.”

Rating: 4 – Bad but not without some merit

Reading Next: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)

Ebook available for kindle UK

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  • Linda W
    August 29, 2013 at 8:51 am

    So the person has to die according what’s drawn? Is anything really preventing that person from dying in the method drawn in the picture? Or does the conflict come when the messenger shows the drawing of, say, a car accident, and the intended victim decides never to drive or ride in a car again? I guess I’m at sea here. I can’t say I’ve heard a premise like this one.

  • AnimeJune
    August 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Interesting review.

    From the way you described it, it kind of sounds like a dead-serious (heh) version of the show “Dead Like Me,” where reapers get a name on a post-it and have to find the person and collect the soul before the person dies (usually violently) to ensure a merciful death.

    Only “Dead Like Me” was a black comedy that explained the premise way more (apparently collecting the soul before death keeps the victim from experiencing the pain and fear of their violent demise). And it was also AWESOME and starred Mandy Patinkin.

  • Ana
    August 29, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Linda – is a bit more convoluted than that. The people are shown the drawings without knowing what they are looking at. The drawings are incredibly clear ONLY to the messengers. The people-to-die see only shades – the point is that they need to touch the drawings some way. So for example, the messenger could bump into the person and drop amongst their things the drawing – say as a postcard- and that ensures that the messenge has been delivered and the person will now die.

  • Ana
    August 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

    AnimeJune – I thought about the show when reading this but this one was about everybody – not only violent deaths. It’s weird, I really couldnt buy into it.

  • Lexa Cain
    August 30, 2013 at 2:50 am

    I’m sure the huge premise holes are why the blurb is so vague. When I read the blurb, I thought, Hmmm, interesting! But when I read your explanation, my BS antennae started twitching. Say what?! I adore horror, but suspension of disbelief is key.
    Great review! 🙂

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