He tweets from @stevestred
Ritual by Steve Stred is a novella with some serious bite. It’s quite a difficult book to read on many levels, its no nonsense approach to taboo subjects causes an unease from pretty much page one and continues through the book to its grisly conclusion. You want to look away at numerous points, but Stred pulls you through his offering kicking and screaming and reading through the gaps in your fingers that are trying to cover your eyes from the impending horror.
This is a novella, and a short one at that, I finished it with a coffee and some cinnamon swirls – so I’ll need to keep the review short and spoiler free, so please forgive the brief review. But this brevity is needed to shield you from the spoilers and allow you to discover his most unsettling tale to-date by yourself and free from any of the screams that may escape my lips and ruin your enjoyment of this novella.
When I purchased this book I did so under the pretence that I’ve loved discovering Stred and his work, and when I discover an author that I love – I’m all in. I tend to go full stalker mode and try to read everything they have or will release in the future – I find it great to follow an author, see where they have been and where they are taking their craft. But as I understand (stalkerish I know) Stred lives in Canada so there will be no physical stalking involved… so he says!
As I said; from page one Stred drops us into the most intoxicating mix of self flagellation, religion and sexual abuse (assault) a heady cocktail which tastes bitter the more you drink of it. There were times I was reading that I actually retched – I can’t remember the last book that brought that feeling on – but I’ll remember this one for sure.
Our main protagonist is seen as the new saviour to a religious sect that are into all kinds of crazy – dressing up in masks, wearing antlers, black, dark and satanic practices. He’s being groomed as the heir to the sect – a role that seems to be forced on him as well as other unspeakable acts, building to a dramatic and horrifying conclusion. Stred’s writing of these most heinous events are some of the most unapologetic writing I’ve encountered and did make me feel quite ill, disgusted and disturbed – he moved me in ways I wasn’t expecting and caused me to feel things I’ve not felt before when reading – its dark but also enlightening at the same time.
It’s not an easy read, it’s not darkness for darkness sake – but it’s a bold choice of subject that Stred centres on, he doesn’t glorify the horrors but in some way shines a spotlight on things that happen and the horrors that destroy lives and this is one story that I am sure will haunt me for years to come.
News is that there is also a second book in the mix, I don’t want to take this journey again, but I’m sure Stred will drag my sorry ass through the ringer for the second time… and I’ll let him!
Ritual is available to purchase here.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction. Steve is the author of two novels, four novellas, two short story collections as well as two poetry/drabble collections. Steve has had works featured in 100 Word Zombie Bites, 100 Word Horrors 3, and Forest of Fear.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews. Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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