My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
In 1775, Daniel Boone and a cast of hearty axe-men are busy chopping their way through the Cumberland Gap to clear the land for a road. These frontiersmen encounter a predator more powerful and cunning than any you might expect in the deep woods. Night after night, they encircle the campfire as members of their band are picked off one by one. Finally they overpower the monster, leaving the beast for dead in a nearby cave.
More than a hundred years have passed. In that same area a different fight for survival exists between the descendants of one such axe-man. The Manders and the Coys are the divided factions that struggle against each other to possess what little resources this valley has to offer. The patriarch of this land has died. He could have ended the feuding with his last will and testament.
What he leaves them with instead is a set of instructions. Members from each side of the family have returned from great distances. A representative group of men from each faction to include the travelers must now face the cave for the will lies within, but that isn’t all.
I love the way Cherie Priest layered the story between the Daniel Boone scenes and the return of the descendants and their descent into the cave. She builds the atmosphere to the point you are at the blazing campfire, in the desolate valley, or sinking down into the dank cave.
The monster was just plain creepy. I wanted to cower with the men. I felt the despair grow and the resolve to survive was so convincing. Every part of the action had me on the edge. I was biting my nails in places. I think the dark and the creepy factor had quite a bit to do with it. I think the pacing was perfect. It isn’t a long book. Yet, you feel the slow build to the climax in each case. I think that is where the layering is masterfully employed.
The tension between the Manders and the Coys as well as those that left and those that stayed in the valley further escalate that sense of peril. The reader is never really sure where the next bit of danger will come from.
The illustrations were a nice touch. I have to tell you my mind’s eye was doing a number on the monster all by itself.
I was satisfied with the ending. That sounds like such a simple sentence. It isn’t underselling it. Often I watch movies that for whatever reason, fail to satisfy me with their endings. I want more. I wanted this or that aspect of the story developed. I felt like a loose end was left here or there. I closed this book with a “Yes” exclaimed out loud. I know because I got THE LOOK from my husband which set me to explaining my joy immediately. This book was scary in all of the right ways. We had the dark environment, the chase scenes, the layered tension, the unknown. It would be a perfect October read. I love a good ghost story and while this wasn’t really one of those, it had a story telling quality about it and a heavy atmosphere. I do recommend it. I absolutely do.
Amazon’s Product Description goes into the plot a little deeper. I wanted to leave a little more mystery here in my review. If you want to check out other things by Ms. Priest, I would like to recommend her steampunk novel, Boneshaker, which was released this week.