Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their mountain cabin to a new place with prairie lands. Hoping for a fresh start after the horrors of the previous winter, Amanda thinks she might finally be able to shed the memories of the visions she saw as she lost her grip on reality as well as the memories of the boy she fell in love with for a time. Of course, Amanda is now pregnant with that same boy’s baby, and she can’t tell anyone the truth. When the family arrives at their new home, they find the inside covered in blood. As time goes on, Amanda starts to realize that things on the prairie are more sinister than they first appeared. But are the things she sees and feels real, or are they manifestations of the evil within her own soul?
Amy Lukavics’ ghost story hits all the buttons of the classic horror genre: the dread of the unknown, the terror of parents turning on their own children, the threat of exposure to the evil in the dark, and what might actually be lurking inside all of us. The result is a terrifyingly tense read guaranteed to keep readers up late into the night. Not one for the faint of heart, Lukavics has crafted a genuinely scary story.
What’s particularly notable here is how Lukavics manages to set her story in the past without getting too specific with the time period. There are aspects here that are intentionally reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, but they’re subverted by the too-real images of the horrible things that plague this family: fire ants swarming over a baby’s face, blood soaked through wooden floorboards, wild animals devouring a human body. The family’s journey to the prairie is supposed to bring them peace and a new beginning, but instead they are treated to hell on Earth.
Lukavics builds tension between her characters and the world they inhabit well. A fast pace helps propel the story forward, and the period dialogue works pretty well, given the murkiness of the actual time period. Readers won’t be able to turn pages fast enough to figure out which of the devils is going to get the Werner family first: the one inside our protagonist, or one of the many lurking just out of sight of the cabin on the prairie.
Horror done exceedingly well. Recommended.
Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics. Harlequin Teen: 2015. Library copy.