Adam L. G. Nevill: Ritual (2011, Pan Publishing) 4 stars

Review of 'Ritual' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

"The Ritual" tells the story of four friends from college who have attempted to revive their camaraderie via a camping trip in the Swedish wilderness. They overestimate their stamina, however, and when two of their number are hobbled by injuries, they elect to take a "shortcut" back towards town through an ancient forest. They soon encounter strange noises and disturbing relics, and realize they are being stalked by something powerful and stealthy, capable of eviscerating a grown man and flinging him up into the tree branches.

I greatly enjoyed the 2017 movie adaptation of "The Ritual," but wished that more had been revealed, and that the finale had been less rushed. I picked up the novel hoping for more of what I enjoyed in the movie, and this book certainly delivered.

Despite the surprisingly fast pace of the book, a great deal of attention is paid to establishing an oppressive, ominous atmosphere. The reader is made to feel a great deal of empathy for the exhausted and injured hikers lost in the primeval Nordic wood. Tempers flare and nerves fray as the gravity of their situation becomes clear.

While much of the film is a close adaptation of the book, the two works diverge considerably when the protagonist encounters the local residents of the wilderness. The movie plays it safe with a fairly conventional evil cult, while the book heads in a much more interesting and original direction. (To me, anyway; apparently it's somewhat controversial to some other readers.)

Despite its bleakness, I was unable to put this book down. It was a horror novel of a grueling kind not often seen. The protagonist is pushed to extremes, suffering a laundry list of injuries coupled with incredible mental strain. His struggle and slipping sanity are incredibly effectively rendered on the page, resulting in the most engaging horror novel I've read in a number of years.