Devil’s Pass, by Sigmund Brouwer

2012 Book 145: Devil’s Pass, by Sigmund Brouwer

Reason for reading: This book was provided by the publisher through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. The thoughts expressed in this review are mine, and I receive no benefit from giving a good review.

My Review:

When 17-year-old Webb’s grandfather dies, he leaves a list of seven mysterious tasks to be completed by his seven grandsons. Webb’s task is to hike out into the Northwest Territories on a mission to find a buried secret. While on this trip, Webb struggles with his own identity, and the changes he’s seen in himself ever since his widowed mother remarried an abusive husband. On this trip, Webb learns a lot about his well-loved grandfather…and a lot about himself. This is part of a series of seven books, about the seven grandsons–each with a task from his deceased grandfather. In order to give each grandson an entirely unique personality, the series was written by seven different authors. This is the only book in the series that I have read. Technically, it’s the fifth book in the series, but since the story of each grandson is completely independent of the other books, they can be read in any order. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this little book. Not that I expected bad things from it, but I didn’t expect to be caught up in the action. Brouwer has worked in some interesting action scenes right at the beginning of the story, and by the time the action has slowed to a pace more suited for plot and character development, I was already quite interested in the book. I read it in only a couple of sittings. This would be an excellent book for boys in the 5th or 6th grade age range, even though the main character is 17. 

Character Thursday:

Fanda at Fanda Classiclit has organized a weekly blog event in which we can provide a detailed character analysis of a book that we’ve been reading. I thought I’d try my first character analysis out on Webb. I thought he’d be an interesting character to start with because his identity is developing throughout the story. The following information will contain more details than I usually provide in my review, but I’ll try not to include any plot-vital spoilers. 

When Webb was 5th grade-ish, his widowed mother remarried a man who was abusive to Webb, but apparently not to Webb’s mother. So Webb was manipulated and threatened into keeping the abuse a secret. Eventually, at maybe 16 or 17, he ended up living on the streets. This is where he was when his grandfather died and the adventure begins.

Because of the abuse in Webb’s past, he adopted a protective role for other victims of abuse. At the beginning of the story, he saw a young woman being beaten by her boyfriend, and in order to defend her, he ended up in a fight with this very dangerous man. 

At first blink, you’d see Webb’s behavior as “good.” He was using his own experience to help a woman in trouble. But soon you find out that as Webb gets angrier and angrier, he loses his logic…he wants to seriously hurt this man. A rational part of his brain says that seriously hurting people in self defense isn’t necessary, but that rational part of his brain isn’t working once his rage has fired up. So Webb is a protector of the weak, but he’s also teetering on the brink of violent, hateful jerk himself. The identity crisis that Webb struggles with throughout the book is where to draw the line between protector and wrathful avenger? 

Webb didn’t think that his grandfather knew about Webb’s troubles. But his grandfather is more astute than Webb expected. Webb was left with two Nietzsche quotes to ponder during his hiking trip in the Northwest Territories. The first was: That which does not kill us makes us stronger. The second was: He who fights with monsters must take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Webb had already experienced and accepted the meaning of the first quote. But he was puzzled by the second quote. It made him question what he was becoming…whether he needed to become that…and what the alternatives were. 

Webb’s identity crisis was, granted, quite straightforward and clearly-laid-out for the readers. That’s because this book was written for 5th graders, who aren’t as attuned to subtlety as they will be as adults. I think Webb’s identity crisis allows someone of the appropriate reading age to learn something new about how the world affects their personalities…and how their personalities can affect the world. Thus, Web was a fascinating character, and I’m happy I met him. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Devil’s Pass, by Sigmund Brouwer

  1. Firstly, thanks for joining the Character Thursday! 🙂

    Speaking of 'identity crisis' and the fact that the character's name is Webb, remind me instantly of David Webb aka Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, LOL!

    And now I'm curious whether at the end Webb could control the anger in him or not. It's always interesting to follow characters with abuse-experiences, they usually tend to do harms ( to others or to themselves).

    A nice choice of a character, Rachel!


  2. I wonder how this series of books came together. I mean, it doesn't happen often that a series of books is written by different authors, at least not one that is connected in some way.

    Did Webb find the meaning behind and the answer to the second quote? 🙂


  3. Fanda: Thanks for organizing it! I think it's a great way to encourage me to do some deeper thinking about the motivations of characters. (Which is very good for me.) Webb was actually named after Jim Webb, the songwriter. 🙂

    Chinoiseries: They provided surprisingly little information on the rest of the series in this book. It's possible that I got an ARC that is missing that content…but it isn't labeled “not for resale” *shrug* I know all the books came out on the same day (yesterday, I think). I'll probably check out a couple more of them and see how well the system works.

    CHARACTER SPOILERS: The abyss part of the second quote wasn't really explained in the book, but he certainly understood that he had been allowing himself to turn into a monster. The ending was left slightly open for him to develop more in the future (which is realistic), but it ended on a positive note in which he understood what he was turning into and he didn't like it.


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