The holidays are over and my life has settled down! I hope you all had a wonderful time over the past few weeks and are settling into the new year! On my holiday break, I read a lot – as I tend to do – and one novels I read was The Reddening by Adam L.G. Nevill. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this review.
Adam L.G. Nevill is a British author and is the author of Banquet for the Damned, Apartment 16, The Ritual, Last Days, House of Small Shadows, No One Gets Out Alive, Some Will Not Sleep: Selected Horrors, and others. His novels, The Ritual, Last Days, and No One Gets Out Alive were the winners of The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. Before becoming a full time author, Nevill worked as an editor.
One million years of evolution didn’t change our nature. Nor did it bury the horrors predating civilisation. Ancient rites, old deities and savage ways can reappear in the places you least expect. – http://www.adamlgnevill.com
Currently available on Kindle Unlimited, The Reddening is considered to be folk horror. Don’t know what that is? I don’t blame you, I had a vague idea and when I tried to Google it up, didn’t really find anything definitive. The best definition I found is this:
Folk horror is a sub-genre of horror fiction (or of Occult fiction in WorldCat Genre terms) characterised by reference to European, pagan traditions. Stories typically involve standing stone circles, earthworks, elaborate rituals or nature deities. – www.folkhorror.com
In Nevill’s tale, a small coastal village finds some unknown caves that riddle the cliffs near their homes. In the caves, tons of human remains and strange prehistoric artifacts are discovered, along with strange lore of a “red folk” and their nameless gods. Along with that, rumours abound of drug plantations, cannibalism, and cults. People start going missing with a vicious regularity and the town itself refuses to acknowledge the darkness that is slowly consuming their land.
The novel itself is centered on two women: Katrine (a reporter who moved to the small town after traumatic events in London) and Helene (a single mother who is visiting the town to retrace the last trip of her now deceased brother). They become twisted up in the conspiracy surrounding the town, following the discovery of those ancient caves. To survive, they might have to /ahem/ see red themselves (Wow, that was terrible. Sorry!)
“Supernatural horror does not get much better than The Reddening. If you’re a fan of slow build-ups, heavy atmosphere, superb and intricate plotting, bloodletting and a novel which has a unique sense of time and place then you are going to love this quality story. 5/5.” — Gingernuts of Horror.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Reddening. Nevill is very good at painting the idyllic scene of a coastal European village, surrounded by stark cliffs and bleak moors. His setting is laced with heavy atmospheric dread and his first chapter provides a powerful hook that drags the reader straight into the mouth of the madness that consumes the setting of the novel. After that, he weaves a powerful and unsettling tale that expands across centuries, across all families, and across the whole town.
One thing I greatly appreciated was Nevill’s portrayal of the two female protagonists. A lot of times, women in horror are portrayed as helpless, frantic, or useless. Helene and Katrine are so much more than that. They are very vivid and real characters, at times even unlikable, but never unbelievable.
Throughout the book, as you read, it’s like you can feel a trap closing in around the characters and it feels claustrophobic, frightening, and riveting.
A weakness in the novel, however, would definitely be that it could be trimmed down a bit. There were a few times in the novel where there were so many details that it felt like the plot had completely stopped so the reader could ingest a bunch of context – which for a horror novel, can be a killer (bahdumTSH). Additionally, a lot of the information the characters discover is then repeated several times and reinforced to the readers again and again – another plot speed bump.
Still, I really did enjoy the novel and highly recommend it as an addition to your to-read pile. This is a great example of folk horror – just beware, there is quite a bit of gore in it!
x P.L. McMillan