Published by Harlequin Teen on September 29, 2015
Genres: Historical, YA, YA Historical, YA Horror
Source: eARC via NetGalley
When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner's family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.
When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn't right on the prairie. She's heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can't be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.
Diversity Rating: 0 – What Diversity?
YA is in need of some good horror novels and Daughter Unto Devils is ready to answer that call and scare your clothes off this fall in a very nonromantic way. Also good for Thanksgiving if you’re especially angry at crimes committed against Native Americans over the last six centuries or so. ANYWAY. This is far from what I expected from Harlequin Teen as someone familiar with the kind of work they publish, but Daughter Unto Devils is among their best novels by far.
From the very first page, Lukavics is hard at work creating the eerie, open-yet-claustrophobic atmosphere that really makes this novel. Whether the Verner family is trapped on their mountain and in their home by snow or in their new home in the middle of an open prairie, the devil Amanda is certain she saw the winter before always seems to be on her heels. Surprisingly few spooky things actually happen, but once the gore and action really kick in at the end of the novel, the sparseness of events before makes everything that much more frightening.
The characters aren’t great, especially Amanda’s cardboard-like younger siblings Joanna and Charles, but pregnancy’s effect on Amanda and her relationship with her next-closest sister Emily are effective and well-written. Horror fans used to seeing characterization replaced by scares won’t be too surprised by the lacking characterization. Almost the entirety of the novel is about the Verner family leaving the mountain and settling in their new, mysteriously-blood-drenched new home, not the spooky things happening to them. This is a novel about atmosphere, not happenings, so if Amanda’s voice doesn’t immediately grab you or sell you on the spooky, you’re probably gonna have a bad time.
As satisfying as Daughter Unto Devils is, it leaves you wanting too. How much of the evil followed the Verners from the mountain and how much was waiting for them on the prairie? What brought the evil to the prairie in the first place if the massacre previously committed in the new home was a result of the evil, not the cause? Did someone–like Native Americans who aren’t in the novel at all but are the go-to cause of curses and the paranormal in horror–do something to make the white people kicking them off their own land suffer or did evil always live there? So many questions are left unanswered and the trademark final punch might leave you angry this is such a short little standalone.
Someone give Lukavics more book deals because she’s a one-of-a-kind voice in horror and I love what she does. Subtle horror beats out-and-out gore for me every time. In case your Halloween season consists of munching on candy and reading spooky books, Daughter Unto Devils is a necessary addition to the tower of terrifying lit.