The Ritual by Adam Nevill (ISBN 978-0230754928)
‘So who is the new Stephen King or Clive Barker?’ I implored on Twitter the other day, desperate to discover some strong new writing talent out there. The answer came back “Give Adam Nevill a try.” And so I did.The Ritual is set in modern day Scandinavia on the Swedish/Norwegian border. Four guys in their 30’s (Hutch, Phil, Dom and Luke) decide to revive their flagging friendship by getting away from it all on a hiking trip.
A great idea at first but Dom and Phil’s lack of fitness forces the group to take an ill-advised shortcut through uncharted woods.

As the group stumble through the ancient woodland they come across a dismembered corpse strung high up in the trees. It’s hard to tell if it’s man or beast but you just know it’s not want you want to find when you are lost in the arse-end of nowhere.

With no choice but to struggle onwards in their attempts to find civilisation, the foursome become further lost and disorientated until they chance upon an abandoned farmhouse (which you just want to scream at them not to enter.) From here on in the terror starts slowly to ratchet up and continues to do so throughout their ongoing journey.

The Ritual drags us on a bleak journey into fear and lost religion. The group are ruthlessly stalked as they begin to uncover ancient evils. As their ordeal becomes more arduous and gruesome the four become fractious just when they need to work together the most. No character is safe from the menacing ‘beast’ whose true extent is never fully revealed even at the dramatic climax.

Without spoiling the plot, the book is split into two parts, with the opening setting up the threat and developing the group dynamics. The second half of the book is where the terror really reaches a crescendo. This two part approach is finely judged, as the scenario of the first half, whilst gripping, was in danger of losing impetus towards the end –

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but then the author blind-sides us with a whole new threat just when hope is dawning.

Nevill delivers terror at a level which many aspire to but few achieve. He writes in such a way that you are both scared and compelled to see what happens next. It is the literary equivalent of watching a horror movie from the relative safety of the back of your sofa.

The whole feel to the book is overwhelming oppression (stylistically, it is Blair Witch meets Deliverance) yet you cannot help getting sucked into the story. This is a real page-turner which will keep you up all night. Aside from some slight irritations with a couple of the characters I wholeheartedly ‘enjoyed’ this book and I think that Nevill has as good a chance as anyone of being crowned the new King of horror.

If you want something to make you scared of going into the deep, dark woods then I would highly recommend you pick up The Ritual. The Gruffalo it ain’t!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
GS Reviewer: Phil Ambler
Phil is a co-host on Scrolls, the podcast for literary geekdom. Listen to it here onthe Geek Syndicate

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You can also follow Phil on Twitter @phlambler if you

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