First, a word of warning. This book is intense, and due to the nature of the book’s subject matter it does include some amount of strong language (not excessive, I would say, but it’s there) as well as some racism and homophobia especially early. In Devils Within by S.F Henson, the main protagonist is a former member of an almost cult-like white supremacist group housed in The Fort, located in rural Kentucky. Much of Nate’s world view is dictated by his indoctrination by this organization, and because of that he does harbor a lot of prejudice towards other groups of people that he has to grow out of and reflect on during the course of the novel.
It’s definitely a story of character growth and change; it would be easy to have a story where characters are fairly cut and dry or one not but that isn’t the case here. S.F Hinton manages to show a sympathetic side to Nate despite his background while also managing to show what a dark place of violence Nate comes from. He struggles with past impulses to be violent against those that now surround him and grow out of the behavior that was hammered into him most of his life.
The overarching plot isn’t hugely original; for the most part it’s a story of a character with a dark secret which he hides from those close to him which ultimately comes out and the reactions of those around him in regards to that. This plot-line isn’t uncommon but it’s managed very well and there is a certain sense of anxiety in not wondering if the truth will come out, but when.
As mentioned, this is a hard and somewhat disturbing read, but ultimately very fulfilling. If it weren’t for the massive critical acclaim and the Morris Award recognition I’m unsure that this book would have been on my radar to pick up, but I’m glad that I ultimately did. It’s a struggle because of the content, there may be times you need to put it down to process or take a break from the intensity of it all, but stick with it and you’ll have a satisfying and deep read.