This is not a review. Everything about Adam Nevill’s THE RITUAL (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) is designed to propel the reader through it. From the first page the language is taut, the chapters are small, and there is no relief to ease the reader back into safety. The book is a marvel of sustained atmosphere and unrelenting terror.
What Nevill has crafted is an extended harrowing and emotional journey. It tests the reader as it tests its protagonist, and after a while the shared experience bonds the two. Characters are tested; courage defined; weaknesses exposed. And yet the book also reveals in its most brutal moments an equally uncompromising emotional beauty.
There are so many good books that are forgotten once the covers are closed, or at best fade into the hazy background of lazy memory. This year I have been blessed with the opportunity to read a number that go beyond that; books that, in different ways, have left a permanent and indelible mark on me. There is a piece of my psyche trapped forever in the ancient Scandinavian forests of THE RITUAL, and that sort of damage is something only great fiction can achieve.