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Books 98-99: White Crow and The Ritual

Book 98: White Crow .
Author: Marcus Sedgwick, 2010.
Genre: Horror. Historical. Ghosts. Gothic. Young Adult.
Other Details: Paperback. 279 pages.

A treasure of a Gothic tale, which combines a modern day story of a summer friendship with the tale of an 18th century cleric who gets involved in a diabolical experiment to prove life after death. Both stories take place in the village of Winterfold, inspired by Dunwich on the Suffolk coast where coastal erosion has meant that the sea has reclaimed large parts of the town.

Rebecca arrives in the village with her father for an extended summer stay. She is quickly befriended by Ferelith, a strange young girl who seems almost elfin in appearance and behaviour. Ferelith offers to reveal to Rebecca the secrets of the village. Running alongside this modern day story are the journal entries of a late 18th century pastor who becomes involved in the macabre experiments of a French doctor who has come to live in Winterfold Hall following the French Revolution. These entries convey a descent into madness as events spiral out of control.

I sat down after lunch one afternoon and read through this in one sitting, just captivated by Sedgwick's story-telling, his beautiful writing and the powerful atmosphere he created. While it certainly sent shivers up my spine I also found it a deeply moving tale of an unusual friendship between two very different young women.

Book 99: The Ritual .
Author: Adam Nevill, 2011
Genre: Horror.
Other Details: Trade Paperback. 418 pages.

Fifteen years after they have left university four British blokes head off on a walking holiday in Northern Sweden. Two of the friends are in pretty good shape while the other two have let themselves go. Realising that his friends are struggling the designated leader of the group suggests taking a shortcut through some virgin forest. OK, we already know from the very creepy prologue that a few hours into this shortcut they have come across something very disturbing up a tree and so it is pretty obvious that very bad things are going to happen. There are echoes of The Blair Witch Project in the story-line though in many ways the nightmarish qualities here are better executed.

This novel seriously gave me the shivers and I had to finish it in a single day as I had to know how things turned out before it got dark. It's a rare book that unnerves me this way. Without giving too much away about the plot, the second half doesn't quite deliver on the disturbing horror of the first half but felt overall the novel was worth it for those sequences in the deep, deep forest. Aside from the horror element it also deals with coming to terms with impending middle age and the nature of friendship.
Tags: british, ghosts, gothic novels, historical fiction, horror, myth and legend, young adult
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