Daughters unto Devils by Amy Lukavics. Harlequin Teen. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.
The Plot: Amanda, sixteen, and her family live in an isolated mountain cabin. The previous winter had been very bad: they were snowed in, her mother got sick, there were complications when her youngest sister was born, and Amanda herself.... well. They don't talk about that.
Amanda's father thinks life will be better on the prairie, so he packs them all up in the wagon and moves them out, where they find an abandoned cabin.
Life isn't better. The horror is just beginning.
The Good: One of the scariest books I've read in the last ten years; made scarier by how short this book.
Amanda is sixteen; the family lives in a cramped one room cabin, a cabin "built for three" but now housing Amanda, her parents, and her four younger siblings. Emma, her younger sister and best friend; the children, Joanna and Charles; and baby Hannah, born deaf and blind.
Amanda is full of guilt: guilt over wishing her baby sister dead instead of a burden, draining the life out of her mother; guilt over the child she carries, the result of sweet words and warm embraces with the boy who brings the post to the village at the foot of the mountain; guilt over how she went crazy last winter, convinced she saw the devil in the woods and that he was coming for her.
While there are references to a bigger world - the village where Pa goes for supplies and where Amanda sees Henry for the first time, Aunt Charlotte and her children - the world of Daughters Unto Devils is small, as small as Amanda's family and the one room cabins they live in. This is a family isolated; a family that seems close but sharing beds does not mean sharing secrets.
Early on, Amanda is told a ghost story and delights in the thrill it gives her. The story is explained as being about "the land itself. It had been soured by an infection of constant panic, hate, and fear. The man [telling this story] said that in some places, the land can come out to play through the living. It can even make folks go mad."
A land infected that in turns infects others. Panic and hate and fear -- and yes, guilt -- making one susceptible to such infection and evil.
What happens to the people in such a land?
I don't want to say much more. Just where can one hide from devils and demons and the land itself?
And remember how the scariest part of Twilight Zone episodes was that terrible things could happen to anyone? That it wasn't about who deserved it; it one could only live through it and not escape. Bad things happen to people.
In Daughters Unto Devils, very bad things happen.
And for days after, I was half-afraid to look out the windows or into mirrors, afraid of what may be lurking in corners, just out of sight.
Heck yeah, a book this scary is one of my favorite books of 2015.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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