Sunday, August 29, 2010

Devil spotting: "A Reversal of Fortune" by Holly Black

Again, not an example of the meeting with the devil at the crossroads but instead one of a pact with the devil involving a contest. In The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black, Easthampton, MA: Big Mouth House, 2010, 29-47.

"How about this--I will wager my services against something of yours. If you beat me at any contest of your choosing, your dog will be well and you'll owe me nothing."
"Really? Any contest?" she asked.
He held out his hand. "Shake on it and we've got a deal." 

His skin was warm and dry in her grip.
"So, what is it going to be?" he asked. "You play the fiddle? Or maybe you'd like to try your hand at jump rope?" (page 40-41)

Also available in Sympathy for the Devil: Stories of the Devil edited by Tim Pratt. San Francisco: Night Shade Books, 2010, 51-61.

Originally published in The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling. New York: Viking, 2007, 418-436.

In the author's note, Holly Black writes: "In folklore, the devil's attempts to steal souls often involves humorous and impossible contests....I wondered how the devil would cheat at such a contest and wound up writing "A Reversal of Fortune." (436)

And no, I am not revealing the nature of this particular contest -- I highly recommend you seek out any of the three collections (or all of them) and find out for yourself.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Devil Spotting: The Prince of Mist

Although the motif of the meeting with the devil at the crossroads is not present in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Prince of Mist, the impact (pardon the pun) of making a pact with the devil is a major theme of this young adult novel. Also present in all its disturbing "glory" is the motif of the clown statue.

"The day Jacob Fleischman drowned I knew that the Prince of Mist had never left. He had remained in the shadows, waiting patiently for something powerful to return him to the world of the living. And nothing is as powerful as a promise..." (122)

From Bill Sheehan's review in Subterranean Press:

"On its most fundamental level, Zafon's novel is a lively, thoroughly modern retelling of one of the essential narratives of Western Civilization: The Faustian Compact, which can be summed up in a single sentence: Take what you want--and pay for it." (

For more information on the book and its author: