The Ritual unleashes original and imaginative folk horror.
The Ritual is a supernatural folk horror with a surprising twist. It’s a story with relentless suspense, visceral horror, paranormal horror, and physical horror that will keep you enthralled the whole time from beginning till the end. The narrative builds the creepiness in a smart way, and offers a great twist that results in a second part that is even more scary and treats us to folk horror in the ancient Swedish woods. This horror novel is excellently told, with smartly woven themes into the horror and with relatable characters to make it an exceptionally scary read.
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Four friends Luke, Hutch, Phil and Dom decide after 15 years to rekindle their relationship with a hike in the ancient Swedish woods. They have grown apart and have difficulties to reconnect. When the hike also becomes a difficulty they decide to take a shortcut but they soon get lost. And they are being followed. They hike deeper and deeper into the woods until they stumble upon an ancient power that pushes them to their limits.
Why you should read it
The Ritual is a very enthralling scary and surprising horror that also has something to say. It’s built with different sections that all deal with a different kind of horror. When the four friends try to reconnect they find themselves more driven apart than they thought and this first part really describes their characters very well. Each one of them is fleshed out but Luke stands out. He’s the most different from the group, still single with no steady job like the others. That offers conflict between them that is very well written and is part of the theme of the story.
When they get lost these conflicts are first aggravated which results in a visceral tension while they also are being followed by something which is the beginning and a subtle omen of what’s to come. Dom and Phil are badly out of shape causing more conflict but also serve as a great plot device that feels very naturally to push the story forwards and their hike further into the woods.
Slowly the supernatural forces and the sinister presence take over the horror of the story causing the four friends to connect as was their intention in the first place.
The buildup of the suspense, the tension and the horror is excellently written, resulting in a very scary but also entertaining read and it reels you in from the first page. Smartly done is that the novel starts right in the middle of the hike going wrong, as a teaser before we get to start at the beginning. With fleshed out characters, great storytelling, sublime horror passages that go from surreal imagery, hallucinations, dreams and creepy sightings in the woods, this is a great story that ultimately leads to an even worse ordeal to come that turns this novel into a folk horror nightmare. Without spoiling it, because the twist is so good, the horror gets real and turns into something occult.
This sudden change of structure, vibe and story is wonderfully done and feels like a great mashup of genres that splits the narrative into two parts. Each part evenly great and told in a very enthralling and engrossing way. Creating different atmospheres for both parts, this novel feels like a surprise and a gift for horror fans.
Each part feels evenly claustrophobic, but in different ways. It’s like a feeling of being caught up in your way of life or feeling left out, being imprisoned in your life. It’s being lost in a vast ancient forest that closes in on you. Whether you’re in the real world, in nature, or stumble into an environment that is different al together, there’s no escape from a haunting feeling and a situation in which there’s no escaping. Although they desperately want to escape real life they now need to escape the woods and eventually what’s lurking in the woods. This overall theme is masterfully intertwined in the different situations they’re in and how they each try to cope with that.
The Ritual is not just a very scary and creepy, thrilling horror that gives you an uncomfortable feeling, but it’s well written and weaves its themes of modern society smarty into the horrifying events. The tension, whether it’s between the friends, the fact that they are lost, or the ancient threat is always relentlessly there, almost palpable.
My favorite part
I really liked the fact that not conforming to the pressure of society shone through the narrative and also in different ways. Luke’s point of view being the most paramount, but another point of view quite sinister brings in the real physical horror. The second half of the book was an amazing surprise, while the first part already was impressively written and scary and creepy, and when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did massively. It was the first book I ever read written by Adam Nevill and the beginning of collecting all his books. He has a certain style, that combines the paranormal with reality and maintains and excellent balance between the visceral horror and the more harsh physical horror.
A favorite quote
‘And on the second day things did not get better. The rain fell hard and cold, the white sun never broke through the low grey cloud, and they were lost. But it was the dead thing they found hanging from a tree that changed the trip beyond recognition. All four of them saw it at the same time.’
Thrill factor: ★★★★★
Scare factor: ★★★★☆
Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Entertainment factor: ★★★★★
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The Ritual is written by Adam Nevill and first published by in 2011. It consists of 418 pages.