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Devils Unto Dust

Review

Devils Unto Dust

DEVILS UNTO DUST is a thrilling new debut that defies being placed in a single genre. A combination of the YA, western, dystopian, post-apocalyptic and horror genres, Emma Berquist’s story is immediately compelling and addictive.

Willie has only ever wanted to survive and to take care of her siblings in the deadly town of Glory, Texas. Her town is one of many that were cut off from the rest of the country when a violent illness swept through the state, leaving the afflicted lost in a bloodthirsty existence called “shakes.” Even her own mother became a victim of the shakes.

Now, Glory is controlled by a man known as the Judge, who is far more interested in profit than justice. When her gambling father crosses a ruthless shake hunter, Willie finds herself responsible for the stolen debt. Left with no choice, Willie hires to two hunters to take her across the desert to hunt down her father and try to save her family. But their journey holds far more dangers than just the shakes. As her mother used to say, life in Glory is hard, so you have to be harder. After all, this is no place for the weak.

"DEVILS UNTO DUST will appeal to a broad audience of readers....It is intense, addicting and completely breathtaking."

From the very first pages, the tension of life in Glory becomes obvious. There is obvious fear and stress that Willie faces every single day in simply trying to feed, clothe and keep her younger siblings safe. Berquist starts the novel off with tension and maintains it throughout the entire novel. The threat of the shakes is present everywhere, even in the quieter moments. It’s easy to imagine how living with something like that would actually be. Constant. Always present. Impossible to forget.

Berquist gives us just enough information to understand the nature of the world without explaining it too much. We get hints of a country that feels similar to the U.S. but in a future that we don’t recognize. We know where the virus started, but not how or why. We don’t know what’s happening outside of the quarantine areas --- only what relates to Willie and her life. While DEVILS UNTO DUST gives us a satisfying ending, there is enough left unanswered for Berquist to continue on Willie’s journey and explore the world in greater detail.

The majority of the book takes place in the desert, narrating the journey Willie takes with the Garrett brothers on her hunt for her father. As the beginning of the story suggests, nothing about this journey is going to be easy, and, in fact, very few things seem to go right for them. I really enjoyed how these trials unfolded. Nothing felt cliché or obvious, even though we know bad things are coming. I adored Willie. She is strong, but isn’t perfect. Her reactions to most obstacles were understandable. I love how feisty she is, and how determined she is to protect her family.

Horror fans will find there are enough terrifying moments with shakes to keep them awake long into the night. It isn’t all shakes all the time, but the moments we get exposed to them are frightening and traumatic. The thing I really liked about these scenes is that they aren’t gory for the sake of gore. They serve to remind us why Willie lives in a constant state of tension, stress and fear. They show how easy it can be to let your guard down, and the deadly consequences that await.

I really enjoyed Berquist’s writing style. From someone who grew up in the desert, I can say she nails the harsh but beautiful environment of desert life. Some of the descriptions of the landscape, particularly the heat, were so accurate it really gave the book an added sense of realism for me. She brought the personalities of all the characters to life in the same way. They were vivid, expressive and real.

DEVILS UNTO DUST will appeal to a broad audience of readers. It’s a perfect blend of dystopian and post-apocalyptic, with enough suspense to appeal to horror fans. There are scenes of violence and gore that could potentially be difficult for sensitive readers. It is intense, addicting and completely breathtaking.

Reviewed by Jena Brown on April 26, 2018

Devils Unto Dust
by Emma Berquist