I recently had the opportunity to read Devil Tree by Steve Vernon. Admittedly, it might not have been a book I would have picked up to read, but it would only have been due to the fact that it wasn’t even on my radar. The blurb on Amazon.com reads just like this:
The roots of evil run deeper than you can ever imagine.
Lucas Sawyer and his wife Tamsen find themselves marooned in the heart of a mid-nineteenth century wilderness forest. They are rescued by Jonah Duvall, a mysterious woodsman abiding in this strange valley with his wife Jezebel and their son Cord. Brooding over all stands the Devil Tree – a huge evil jackpine that has summoned them to this valley to feed upon their collective emotions and their unnatural offspring. Part earth spirit, part elder demon – the tree is farming them.
The characters are bound in a tightening noose of undeniable fate. As winter sets in they must face the tree’s unholy fury in an utterly horrific finale.
Devil Tree is a story that will take you further into the heart of unimaginable horror.
In the beginning of the book, I found the language, descriptions and characters to be a little bit tedious. I can remember looking down at my Kindle, seeing that I was only about 15% in and wondering how I was going to get through to the end… I persevered however, and was glad that I did.
As I past the point where normally I would have put down a book, Vernon’s descriptions became fluid and expansive; the dark fantasy involved was fantastic – he just gives you enough to paint the picture once you close your eyes. I found the characters to be written with that edge of believability that draws them just a little bit closer into your world. With Duvall, you’re not sure if you’re meant to like him or loathe him. It’s an odd reaction at times, he was helpful but within the vein of malevolence. Lucas was such a torn character; alternating between his inner demons and his reactions to the situation he has been thrust into. His inner turmoil was echoed in the arching turmoil of the entire story. On the other hand, Tamsen was such an enigma – her disconnect from just about everything that was going on around her was delightful in its vacancy. And yet, in the end, you came away knowing more about Tamsen than what you initially got from the words written about her. Jezebel might just have been my favourite character of all – I just loved the roughness with which Vernon chose to describe her. As a character, Cord was the epitome of innocence and of innocence being corrupted. As a cast, they covered all of the main archetypes in horror and then some. The parts are complete when you add in the evil Jack Pine itself. There’s a reason why it’s titled Devil Tree.
The only criticism that I can offer is that the story took too long in the beginning to grab me. Part of that has to do with the fact that, to me, the prose felt somewhat disjointed in those first pages. While I can see the benefit of the disjointed prose in the beginning given the subject matter and scenes that were taking place, it was distracting.
In summation, Devil Tree is a dark and edgy book. While I had a hard time getting into it, by the end, I was glad that I stuck with it. At times, it was beautiful while at others it was filled with such vividly horrific moments that I wished I could turn my eyes away.
4 stars out of 5!