Title: The Ritual by Adam Nevill
Released: May 01, 2011. First published January 01, 2011
Copy Owned: Another freebie from the Goodreads First Reads Program, this is by far my favorite.
I wrote a pretty general review for this on the Goodreads site, but I'm going to be a bit more extensive here, so be warned that my entire review will pretty much be a spoiler.
We begin in the woods...
Four, much older, university buddies decide to go traipsing through Europe in an effort to reconnect with one another and leave the stress of their everyday lives behind for a weekend. Sounds simple and normal enough, doesn't it? I thought so, too.
Early on we discover that the "friends" aren't as friendly as we'd expect. Two of the four are a bit estranged from our protagonist, Luke. They're older, seemingly bitter, and in the essence of wandering through the woods, they're extremely out of shape. Marriage didn't do well for both Dom and Phil and neither did their business ventures. Because of this, Luke, our free-spirited ends up being the butt of their jokes and frustrations. Hutch, who seems to take the role of mediator, is the only one that seems to at least keep a cordial tone with Luke.
From there, we enter the woods, which are creepy in general...but imagine woods that haven't been touched much less walked through for what could be centuries. Woods where you're first greeted by an animal corpse hanging from a tree. Wouldn't that be enough to make you turn around and say "F*** THIS?"
It wasn't for the four explorers.
Hutch decides to take a short cut through the woods because of Dom and Phil's inability to keep up and that's where it all went down hill.
First, it was the dead animal in the tree. Next it was an abandoned house. Considering that if you were lost in a wood that hasn't been seen by humans for so log, you'd think an abandoned house would be a god-send...shelter. This wasn't your ordinary abandoned house. The foursome soon find bones, odd markings, an every other weird thing you can imagine that'd have you running into the darkness, trying to get as far away from the house as possible. Up the stairs, they find something worse...something grotesque...something that should have told them how much danger they were in, but they stupidly decide that even though it's shocking, it's nothing to be weary of.
They ransack they house, break anything wooden to burn for heat. Another thing that unsettled Luke.
That night, in that house, they all went to sleep fine...and woke up broken. Each had horrible dreams or visions about the monstrosity in the room above. Each were found in different places, suffering a different invisible torture. After trying to sort themselves out, they left the house, finally realizing they needed to find their way out.
Through the woods, they'd feel an intense ominous presence...they'd encounter makings, and try to distract each other.
They find a church...a rotten church...and discover more ancient markings and upon caving through the floor, they find human bones that are old enough to be noted as old but not old enough to be considered ancient. What freaks them out is some of the bones look like they came from children.
This is when Luke goes in survival mode. He's on guard, nervous, but set on not letting whatever it is that's out there take him without a fight.
One by one, they're taken by an unseen monster, marked only by it's scent and sounds...by the time Luke makes it outside of the woods, he's alone. Battered, bruised, and on the verge of dieing but he made it out.
Is this where we celebrate?
Enter 3 sociopaths and a hag.
The hag isn't really that bad. The 3 in her company are demon spawn, though...literally and figuratively speaking. What Luke endures in the wake of the 3 idiot-teers is almost as bad as what was in the woods. What makes it worse is that the 3 morons praise it, worship it, want to be of it...and on that notion, they want to make Luke their offering...to it.
The hag has something hiding in her "upstairs" room as well...I'll leave that to you to find out what it is, though.
This is the part of the story that irritates me. The part of the book that I'd have to stop reading every so often because of the annoyance it invokes. Imagine running from the biggest danger you could imagine, think you just got saved, and find out that you could possibly be in a worse spot.
The best part of this part of the story is that Luke gets even...as much as he could.
Exit 3 dead dummies and an old freak show.
This book is worthy of being called a horror story. Although, the plot seemed simple and cliche, Nevill painted extremely detailed scenarios, gave each character a purpose and infused it with a spirit that left me anxious, angsty, and afraid. I read tons of horror, and let me tell you that it takes a lot for me to feel this way. I literally had a knot in my stomach that wouldn't go away until it was time to put the book down.
The parts where he was describing their surroundings were so complete, one need only to shut their eyes and picture it. Nothing was left to imagination, not even the odors, the insects, the taste of blood, the aches and pains that were suffered. It was all there for you to read. Hell, at times it felt like more than reading...it felt like experiencing.
I loved this book...and don't let the 4.5 out of 5 stars that I gave it make you think otherwise. I deducted to .5 for personal reasons...okay, it was because he didn't get to beat the sh** out of one of the characters I truly despised, and although she died eventually, I felt cheated because he wasn't the one to kill her.
Yes, I'm petty like that.
I did love the book, though. This is one of those stories you know would be a good movie as it has all of the elements us horror fanatics enjoy. Too bad the world's still stuck on vampires and werewolves.
Horror fans, survival horror fans, I recommend this to you all. The end is a bit of a let down, but I guess when you've been through what Luke has, it's the only end to be had. He was alive.
Nevill, you're a genius.