Ritual, written by Steve Stred, is a bite-sized piece of horror that’s perfect for snacking on during this spooky season. I was supposed to save it to read on a flight, but ended up finishing it before I even boarded my plane. Oops.
Brad is the kind of man who keeps to his routine religiously. Get up, go to work, lick bloody bible pages, go to bed. You know, just usual, Average Joe kinda stuff. As the story progresses, we’re introduced to the church he attends and its leader, a sadistic, sexual predator known only as “Father”, as they prepare for some kind of ritual that will put Brad at center stage.
Stred strikes a fine balance between the mundane and the uncomfortably bizarre. We travel with Brad from his day job as a telemarketer to evenings spent being whipped while forced to commit sex acts. As the reader, we’re never given anything more than short glimpses into the church and how it operates, but those moments are enough to paint a grotesque picture of abuse, zealous belief, and a waiting darkness that we never quite see clearly.
There were two things that pulled me out of the story. First, there’s a flashback sequence toward the end that feels shoehorned in and didn’t, in my opinion, really offer much additional insight into the plot. Perhaps if it had been fleshed out or introduced as a prologue of sorts, the flow might’ve been improved. The second was the ending. Despite being both well paced and written, there was still an air of near-incompleteness to it. I was left with questions about the purpose of the ritual and whether it had even succeeded. Perhaps a sequel will address these?
Overall, Ritual was a really solid read. If you like a bit of body horror and demonic activity developed from a slow burn, then I’d suggest giving Ritual a read!
I was given a free copy of the ebook in return for an honest review.