The Butcher – Laura Kat Young

Published By: Titan Books
Pages: 320
Released On: 13/09/2022

When Lady Mae turns 18, she’ll inherit her mother’s job as the Butcher: dismembering Settlement Five’s guilty residents as payment for their petty crimes. An index finger taken for spreading salacious gossip, a foot for blasphemy, no one is exempt from punishment.

But one day Winona refuses to butcher a six-year-old boy. So their leaders, known as the Deputies, come to Lady Mae’s house, and, right there in the living room, murder her mother for refusing her duties.

Within twenty-four hours, now alone in the world, Lady Mae begins her new job. But a chance meeting years later puts her face to face with the Deputy that murdered her mother. Now Lady Mae must choose: will she flee, and start another life in the desolate mountains, forever running? Or will she seek vengeance for her mother’s death even if it kills her?

*****

Thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

First of all, I can’t believe this is Laura Kat Young’s debut novel. I always used to think that debut novels would be unpolished, a bit rough, with room to grow. But recently, some of the best books I’ve read have been debut books, and this definitely falls into that category.

The images Laura creates are gruesome and bloody and gave me the heebie-jeebies. I’ve never been good with the idea of blood, but because there’s no pictures, I thought it would be okay, but she’s painted it so vividly, the amputations, the sounds of saw through bone, the smell of the blood….I felt myself holding my breath for most of the book, particularly the first half, which in my opinion was more explicit.

It is a proper gruesome, sit on the edge of your seat thriller, like a classic horror – the like I haven’t read in a long time.

I don’t particularly like comparing a book I like (this one) to one I didn’t, but this reminded me of The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi in that they both star a young woman forced into an uncomfortable job due to reasons out of their hands. What makes this one better in my view, is that she’s hit the right balance between the reader being thrilled and uneasy and the. Feeling so uncomfortable they can’t read on. You want your reader to be a bit grossed out, but you also want them to finish the book.

There is a lyrical, poetic nature to the writing. It’s not jarring or stilted, each sentence flows naturally into the next. This may not be something most people even care about but I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to syntax and word formation, so I really liked this.

It’s really easy to read. At 320 pages, it’s my ideal length, but I thought I’d probably read a few chapters then put it down and get on with my day. But I was so engrossed that the first time I looked down to see how much I’d read, I was almost half way through, and to me that’s one of the clearest ways of telling if a book is good.

This is for all intents and purposes, a thriller. A bloody thriller. But I found it really moving. On more than one occasion I found myself tearing up, out of sadness, anger, pride and joy. This is so much more than a story about punishments. It’s a story about forgiveness. A story about love.

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