Before the Devil Knows You’re Here by Autumn Krause

“If I were to binge-read one book on Halloween, it would be this one!”

Review by Erin Phillips

1836. Wisconsin Territory. All Catalina has left is her little brother—Mama died years ago, and Papa was buried just yesterday. She and Jose Luis are alone now, in their ramshackle cabin on the edge of the Wisconsin wilderness, with the cold weather coming.

As Catalina sets plans to ensure their survival, a strange man appears—a man covered in bark, leaves growing from his head, and sap dripping from his eyes. Before Catalina can stop him, he scoops Jose Luis up and disappears. He leaves behind a strange bird with crimson wings. She can’t let this man—if that’s what he is—have her brother. With no idea where they’ve gone, she tracks the bird in hopes it will lead her to Jose Luis.

Along the way she finds help from a young Paul Bunyan, whose life has also been changed by the Man of Sap. As they travel deeper into the Northwoods, they uncover more of the Man of Sap’s history and the connections he and Catalina share, ultimately learning her fate is deeply entwined with his—set in seeds planted long ago—and now, giving her the power to change his life, or end it.

Release Date: 10/3/2023

Genre: New Adult | Dark Fantasy | Gothic

Pages: 352

I received this book from the author. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.

Before The Devil Knows You’re Here reads like true American folklore, as if it was once a historical account, but it has shifted with each telling around the campfire until the story evolved into something dark and enchanting, echoing of heritage and full of mean. While the story may not be true, it bears truth all the same.

“Saying the poem aloud was like taking her heart out of her chest and holding it out for everyone to see, even if everyone was only Paul. And hearts weren’t pretty. At least, hers wasn’t.”

I was truly surprised by this book and I read it in a day! It is excellently paced so that the story is always moving and twisting, and yet it breathes with beautiful descriptions of not just the amazing world the characters explore, but also each heart beat of Catalina and John as we unravel their stories.

“People, she realized, were their own type of wilderness, just as cruel, just as unpredictable, just as powerful.”

I really loved how small the cast was, centering around Catalina and Paul, as well as getting chapters written by Paul, letting us get to know not only the history of the monster-man, but his heart as well. Plus, the depiction of the Devil as the Banker was probably one of my favorite I’ve encountered in fiction! It was a fascinating take on Lucifer, the fallen Angel, and the various nods to the Garden of Eden were masterfully woven throughout the story.

The twists and turns were so exciting to experience, the slow burn romance was as powerful as it was sweet, and every word hummed with an eerily-enchanting gothic atmosphere. And as a fan of horror, this had just enough of an edge to remind me of Edgar Allen Poe and other macabre tales. Not only was BTDKYH beautifully written from top to bottom, but it also explores bold themes of generational curses, the weight of regret, forgiveness, and the battle between hope and despair.

“She realized, then, the nice thing about being lost. You could be found.”

If I were to binge-read one book on Halloween, it would be this one!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Ratings:

Action & Gore:

Rating: 7 out of 10.
7. Very strong gore (action scenes are more common and described to the reader with the intention of producing a mental image).

Romance & Spice:

Rating: 2 out of 10.
2. Mild content (holding hands & mild kissing).

Cursing & Vulgarity:

Rating: 3 out of 10.
3. Infrequent mild cursing (less than 10 mild words).

Other Trigger/Content Notices:

Dark fantasy: Edgar Allen Poe-eqsue macabre horror.

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