Monday, December 28, 2015
Review: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
Author: Amy Lukavics
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 8 October 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository
Sometimes I believe the baby will never stop crying.
Sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner fears she is losing her mind. When her family move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, Amanda hopes she can leave her haunting memories behind: of her sickly Ma giving birth to a terribly afflicted baby; of the cabin fever that claimed Amanda's sanity; of the boy who she has been meeting in secret...
But the Verners arrive on the prairie to find their new home soaked in blood. So much blood. And Amanda has heard stories - about men becoming unhinged and killing their families, about the land being tainted by wickedness. With guilty secrets weighing down on her, Amanda can't be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or within her soul... (summary from Goodreads)
Lukavics has certainly created an atmospheric read but ultimately the scares and narrative fall flat.
I'd been wanting to read Daughters Unto Devils since I first heard about it. I like horror movies and I've been slowly getting into horror books too, here and there. With Daughters Unto Devils having been release in October, it seemed only right to read it for Halloween. I was ready to be freaked out! Unfortunately the book didn't provide the thrill I was looking for. Lukavics's writing is darkly intense, don't get me wrong. For a fair amount of the book she builds the tension perfectly. The mountain, the prairie, the bloody cabin, it's history, the previous winter, Amanda's pregnancy, the isolation - there's so much to Lukavics's world building that was goosebump raising. These little terrifying details that ratchet up the expectations of horror. The problem is that the final act when it came, that horror, was seriously anti-climactic. For me, everything Lukavics was building towards completely fizzled. The story speeds through the final moments, the big reveals, so that it was over and done with before I realised. I was really disappointed as I was ready for so much more. Some moments were creepy - the pigs! Ew! - but they zoomed by and just weren't as effective as they could have been. They felt much too little, too late. If Lukavics had have elaborated on the final part of her story, Daughters Unto Devils would have been brilliant. There was just so little explanation offered. The demons, for instance, alluded to so often and then never becoming much of anything! The narrative became senseless, to be honest, just aiming for cheap thrills - and failing. Lukavics's ending really let down Daughters Unto Devils.
Likewise, the rushed ending made for some disappointing character resolution too. In that there wasn't any. This annoyed me even more than not getting the scares I was hoping for. I'm just not sure what the point was after everything. Daughters Unto Devils is told from Amanda's point of view and the first three quarters of the novels is all about her dealing with an unwanted pregnancy and the haunted feeling she's had since something happened the previous winter. I can't say I'm the biggest fan of Amanda. She was at once selfish and naive, but so terrified you can't help but feel for her. I'm just not sure Amanda learned anything, that there was any greater purpose to her going through everything she did other than trying to create a psychological horror. Amanda's family were the only other real main characters, but Lukavics didn't really delved too deeply into their individual stories. Emily, Amanda's sister and best friend, might have been an interesting alternate point of view, but she was simply a contrast to Amanda here, someone Amanda judged herself against. Personally, I was more invested in Hannah, Amanda's baby sister born the previous winter under mysterious circumstances, who was blind and deaf. The reveals of that winter were not quite as dramatic as I was expecting though, and what happened with Hannah was probably my biggest disappointment with Daughters Unto Devils. Again, I just didn't see the point; why all that build up for such a minor end. The same can be said for Zeke and his father. Lukavics seemed to make quite the big deal about them and where they live, hinting at something more sinister, but again, it really turned out to be nothing spectacular - and again, that's because the narrative came to such an abrupt end. And then there's Henry, Amanda's boyfriend - seriously, what the hell? Talk about a bombshell with no follow through! Daughters Unto Devils had potential to be something fantastic, but it just didn't get there.
Daughters Unto Devils is sure to creep out those not hugely into horror. Lukavics knows how to set the tone, but needs to work on providing that final impact.