The Ritual worked very well as a horror book, until it suddenly didn’t. Let me explain that.
Four old friends decide to get together for a reunion, and have chosen to hike the Scandinavian wilderness. But tensions abound, as protagonist Luke is the only one left single, and with a low-paying job. However, that is the least of their worries when they find a dead animal gutted and left in a sacrificial manner in the forest. After coming upon some ruins, they realize that something is following them. It’s a race to make it out of the forest before an evil being catches up to them.
For the most part, this book was amazing. It was tense, frightening, and thoughtful. The dynamics between Luke and the others was very real. Luke feels left out of the lives his friends lead, while his friends, despite their families and jobs, feel envious of Luke’s “free” single existence. The simmering resentment between them affects how they react to the real problem.
The creature in question isn’t fully described until the end, and even then it’s never truly explained-it’s just a part of the forest, a relic of old days when humans had reason to fear the dark. This made it a truly frightening monster, and the combination of this Lovecraftian suspense and the characters getting picked off one by one made this an excellent read.
Until about halfway through. The next part contains some spoilers, so if you really want to read this book, avoid it. Or not.
At this point, Luke’s friends are dead and he is injured and slowly starving to death, while still being pursued by this dreadful monster. He passes out, and…
WILD CULTISTS APPEAR! Yes, we go from being relentlessly pursued by a terrible creature to some wannabe teenage hipster cultists who make black metal you’ve never heard of, and who want to meet the creature in question. (You’ve never heard of the monster either.) There is a plot reason for them, but it’s so stupid that I can’t even begin to articulate how I feel about it. Like that, the tension snaps, and the author never really regains it. The absolute dissonance of the latter half of the book made it quite frankly boring to read. And this is why The Ritual worked, right up until it didn’t. Nevill would have done better to end it with Luke somehow, than to try to carry the book on like he did.
My suggestion? Read up until Luke passes out, then pretend the monster got him.