0 3 min 11 yrs

Hidden deep in the wilds of the Canadian Wilderness is a place known as “The Devil’s Woods.”  It’s in this place that men have disappeared for centuries and it’s there that Kyle Elkheart will return to find his father whose expedition has just gone missing.

Brian Moreland’s The Devil’s Woods follows a widower—Kyle Elkheart and his expedition to find his estranged father and discover who the man truly was.  With his brother, sister, and their respective significant others, Kyle returns to the Native American reservation and neighboring town where they grew up to find his father’s expedition, who has been attacked by a creature teased in the book’s prologue.

Kyle Elkheart is an incredibly rich and complex character.  The Devil’s Woods is at its strongest when it follows Kyle through a series of incredibly well plotted mysteries of both the woods and the town around him.  Moreland has created two distinct and rich settings that each becomes its own character throughout the story.  The slow burn reveal of the town’s mystery is incredibly interesting and the way Moreland teases details of the creature inhabiting the woods is nearly perfect.  With each encounter the reader begins to comprehend it more and more until Kyle confronts it.

Again, the novel is a slow burn read nurtured along by Moreland’s natural and addictively readable prose until the last third of the book.  It’s here that the book feels like it changes tone to a full blown demonic action finale.  I can see this losing some readers who were expecting something subtler based on the previous chapters.  While the novel is peppered with brutal kill sequences these are nothing compared to the ending.  I want to emphasize that none of the action sequences are poorly done, in fact they are expertly realized, it’s just the tonal change comes off as quite abrupt.

Where Kyle is a wonderfully deep character, much of the supporting cast feels as if they are there to evoke an emotional response from Kyle, advance the plot, or act as monster-fodder.  This is most notable with Eric and Shawna, Kyle’s siblings.  While their backgrounds are intricately fleshed out they don’t come alive with the same depth that Kyle does.

When you add all this up The Devil’s Woods is a damned impressive little horror novel.  Reader’s looking for a well realized and well executed supernatural mystery with some slasher elements and an action-packed climax should pick up Moreland’s newest release from Samhain Publishing.