Devil Tree by Steve Vernon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I totally enjoyed this novel. An interesting juxtaposition of rough-edged, alternative-history-frontier horror, Supernatural venues, three-dimensional characters (some of whom, like Duvall, were two dimensions of evil and one dimension of good), twisted plot convolutions, and absolutely wonderful descriptive imagery, “Devil Tree” inspired me to pause often and savor a lyricism, but also to race forward to “see what’s next!” There’s so many layers, so much concealment, rather like looking for worms under the pine needles covering the valley floor around the title Jackpine. The reader is never quite sure in which direction to turn.
There’s quite a cast of characters here that had to be properly juggled, given the group in the present, and all those in the past, and in interjections, but I found that well-accomplished. I particularly enjoyed-if that is the right word, perhaps “appreciated” would be more apropos-the author’s delicate interweaving of Tamsen’s past with her rather bizarre and homely present, as she attempts to recover the memories she’d apparently lost early in the book (I’ll say no more, as not to spoil the plotting). This was doubly intriguing to me because I looked at the setting in the way I would at Orson Scott Card’s alternative-frontier-history “Tales of Alvin Maker” series-as a divergent probability, perhaps, an existence near to but not identical to our own American history; and because I viewed the settings in this way, the interweaving of the truly historical-cultural-societal aspects of Tamsen’s past (and also of Lucas’ sailing days, which reference much of what I’ve read about the English Navy and maritime of the 17th-18th centuries) made “Devil Tree” so much more vivid, appealing, and realistic to me.
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