Review: The Reddening by Adam Nevill

The Reddening by Adam Nevill
Ritual Limited (October 2019)
420 pages; $15.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Dave Simms

Adam Nevill is a special writer. Those familiar with The Ritual, either the novel or the Netflix adaptation last year, know it’s a story that elevated horror in a way few authors can these days. Those who are fans of Banquet of the Damned, Last Days, and Apartment 16 realize the man writes with a smooth fury that evokes comparisons of Peter Straub, later-Robert McCammon, or Graham Joyce. Still, Nevill has a voice that’s all his own.

His stories grab hold of the brain, heart, and psyche of readers, while newer authors often dissect his flawless prose in search of the secrets that raise his writing to the upper echelons. Yet throughout it all, he knows how to connect with the reader and snare them with characters who are as real as Stephen King’s.

The Reddening is a different kind of folk horror novel. You can speed through its pages in a couple of sittings; instead, you should savor the story and language in this candidate for the Stoker Award.  

A hang-glider accidentally stumbles onto a discovery that changes human history. A cave full of bones. Human bones. Signals of old gods that have never disappeared from our world, rites and rituals that never halted, nor were forgotten. Helene’s brother disappeared years ago after recording in the caves where the cannibalistic ancestors lived in coastal Brickburgh. Those “songs” elicited several pieces of humanity’s past, a past that practitioners will go to extremes to keep hidden. The red folk, who still wander through the shadows, angered by their discovery, will do anything to keep their ways, and their identities, a secret. 

Journalist Katrine has lived through hell, yet finds herself entranced by the discoveries and, with her lover, digs deep into the red folk’s grip on the region and their mythology. In a world where outsiders are not welcome, this pair seeks answers that have been kept buried for thousands of years. They find scores of missing citizens, travelers, and explorers who threaten the red folk’s way of life. 

What are they protecting? 

The Reddening is one of those novels that actually elicits true dread and horror. The red are everywhere, and their ways burrow into our DNA, our history, and our lives today. Where Nevill excels beyond the description and atmosphere is with the characterization of the twin leads. Both Helene and Katrine are all grit and flaws combined. They seek the answers to events that may have shaped them in manners they need to uncover, even if it destroys everything they’ve ever known about themselves and the world in which they live.

Nevill has penned a novel that will undoubtedly be recognized as one of the best horror novels of the last decade. It’s that good.

Highly recommended.

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