Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: Sacrifice by John Everson

Sacrifice is author John Everson’s astounding sequel to his debut novel, Covenant, but it works extremely well as a stand-alone book as well (I have never read Covenant, though after Sacrifice I am eagerly going back to read it!).

With Sacrifice, Everson delivers a nonstop assault on the senses, mixing sex, violence, taboos (a nun becomes a sexually charged, sadistic killer, the hero falls in love with our 15-year-old heroine), solidly developed characters, a frenzied pace and scads of grisly ritualistic killings. There are so many perverted, debased acts in the novel that it definitely isn’t for everyone, but even I, who usually thinks that mixing sex and violence tends to be more exploitative than scary, enjoyed Sacrifice and its shocking tableaux.

From the book’s back cover:

They’re coming. They are a race of sadistic spirits known as the Curburide, and they are about to arrive in our world, bringing with them horrors beyond imagination. The secret to summoning – and controlling – them has fallen into the hands of a beautiful, sexy and dangerously insane woman.

Ariana has dedicated her life to unleashing in our realm through a series of human sacrifices, erotic rituals of seduction and slaughter. As she crosses the country, getting ever closer to completing her blood-drenched mission, only three figures stand in her way: an unwilling hero who has seen the horrors of the Curburide before, a burgeoning witch…and a spiteful demon with plans of his own.

The book is a nonstop thrill ride, and I had a hard time putting the book down once I started it. It immediately throws you into the intrigue of Ariana and her sexually-charged but viciously executed conquests as well as the story of our reluctant hero Joe, who is trying to escape a past encounter with the Curburide and has been burdened with the demon Malachai. When Joe picks up young Alex, who has been able to see and communicate with dead people her whole life and has her own dark past, it’s not long before Malachai reveals they must work together to stop the Curburide. Ariana is no longer working alone, though, and has picked up Jeremy, a man who is finally ready to release all his pent-up tension and aggression. There is a lot going on within the novel, and never once does author Everson allow you to catch your breath. He keeps it all steadily forging forward until you reach the unbearably tense climax, where I felt like I just couldn’t read fast enough to get to the conclusion!!

Everson does an excellent job developing all the characters, including the villains. Even though Ariana is a horrible person for wanting to unleash the Curburide on the world, I still felt inexplicably drawn to her and wanted to see what she would do next. I also very much enjoyed her back story about being a nun and finding out about the Curburide. Her sidekick, Jeremy, was also fleshed out enough where I could understand his actions and why he ultimately chose to join Ariana. Unlike most other novels, time is taken to tell the story from Ariana and Jeremy’s (the villains) side as opposed as just telling it from Joe and Alex’s (the heroes) perspective. As for Joe and Alex, both of their pasts are complex and time is taken to tell about both, without ever slowing down the fast pace of the novel. Both of their pasts contain tragedy that they are both trying to escape. There is also the awkward budding romance between Joe and Alex, which is unnerving and creepy since Alex is only around 15 and Joe is in his late 20’s. I could have done without this inappropriate romance, but in a way it made the characters of Joe and Alex more real as they each faced their temptations.

The aspect that Sacrifice never falters in is its shocking descriptions of gore. The ritualistic killings are disturbing by themselves, but what happens after the victims’ throats have been slit is even more disgusting! Let’s just say that the Curburide thrive and gain power from sexual perversion and Ariana definitely wants to please them. Besides spending a little quality time with the bodies, there is also a very specific arrangement of their organs she must adhere to in order for the ritual to work. By the time she’s done with them, the floors, walls and even ceiling are coated with bits of grue and different bodily fluids.

Sacrifice is a thrilling and shocking piece of genre fiction that deserves to be on every horror fan’s shelf. It’s got enough gore and perversion to shock even the most deviant of minds, but it also has well-developed, realistic characters and an extremely engaging and fast-paced storyline. John Everson is an excellent horror author and I don’t hesitate to call him the future of horror fiction!

Buy it on Amazon!

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