Book Review: Devil Tree by Steve Vernon
In a valley near a river in the wood near Indian territory lies a tree. A tree that sends out its roots throughout the valley and demands blood. It is in this valley that the godsman Lucas and his wife Tamsen find themselves wrecked and at the mercy of not just the man Jonah Duvall and his Indian bride Jezebel, but also at the mercy of the tree.
I decided to dip my toe into magical realism via a genre I love–horror. It turns out it’s not a genre that works for me, although Vernon does it well.
Magical realism is a style in which magic is blended into the real world and characters view it as a natural, normal part of the world. It is more realistic than fantasy but less realistic than traditional horror, for instance. Personally, I could not get into an evil tree that wouldn’t let the inhabitants leave the valley. I think, perhaps, I would have if the characters themselves had been more modern, but they have an antiquated magical feel to them as well.
The books’ main themes are sexual disloyalty and cannibalism. The story seems to be saying that these negative qualities are possible in all humans, but the tree draws them out. All I can say is that although these themes are ones that interest me, they just didn’t do it for me in this story. I reiterate that I think the issue is simply that magical realism is not my style.
The tale is not badly told, although the strongest portions of the story are the flashbacks to Tamsen’s and Lucas’s lost prior loves. Those tales are unique and beautiful, and I can’t help but wonder what made the author choose to tell them as flashbacks instead of as the central piece.
It is difficult to write a review of this book, for although I recognize that it is well-written, it is simply not for me. Some combination of the style and the order in which things are told just didn’t work for me, although there is nothing easily pin-pointed as being wrong with it.
Overall, this is a well-written story that will appeal to fans of both the grotesque and magical realism. You must have a tough stomach to be able to handle this tale, but also an ability to immerse yourself in a world of magic just below the surface.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Kindle copy from author in exchange for my honest review