Evocative, powerful writing, but didn't move me quite as much as I'd expected.
Set a story in the Northern moors, add a remote community and The Devil himself, and you've got a recipe for sure-fire success, wouldn't you think? Well, for the most part, the author delivers (and delivers with exceptional confidence and skill), but there were a few parts that I felt strangely unmoved by, without really understanding why.
The eerie start of the book sets the tone - the story of The Devil visiting the Endlands, and the curse he lay on the land.
Returning to modern day, we meet John, a school teacher, who has just returned to the bleak place where his family live; struggling to survive on their farm. He takes his pregnant wife Kat with him, and from the start, we get a strong sense of their 'otherness' - that this slim, soft-handed couple are not built to cope with the harshness of the moors.
Throw in Grace, a sinister teenager who acts in an eerie, occasionally downright freaky way, plus the recently departed Gaffer, who clearly has secrets to hide, and you've suddenly got a novel that's fraught with suspicion and a sense of the unsettling.
For the most part, I was totally immersed in the landscape that the author creates. It's as rich and believable as the dialogue itself, and every page dips the reader headfirst into this rough, harsh world. The characters too were absolutely wonderful; again, totally believable and artfully depicted, with no needless fluffy description.
The only criticism I'd level at it is that it took a while (after that fab opening) to get going, and for about the first 15%, I was confused as to where it was leading. There were also a few parts in the book that I shut off a little, only to be sucked right back in at a later date. It was definitely a book that ebbed and flowed, much like the hilly landscape that the story is set in!
Overall, I'd say this is an example of an exceptionally strong writer, who really knows how to create atmosphere, and whose turns of phrase are often exquisitely lovely. Where it falls short on occasion, is its flow - but this can be overlooked based on the book's other considerable strengths.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.