Cover Image: Cult of the Spider Queen

Cult of the Spider Queen

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Member Reviews

Andy, a rookie newspaper journalist at a newspaper in Arkham, happens upon just the right story to get himself up from of the lowest  rungs of the career ladder he's been struggling to climb. Taking a risk, he scrawls his name on the mystery package and cons his way into a private viewing of a film recording the last known location of a film actress and director's last trip deep into the Amazon in search of a forgotten goddess- a woman the note attached claims is still very much alive. Funded by a money hungry gold magnate, aided by the story of a mysterious widow who says her own husband encountered the forbidden goddess, and guided by a pair of archeologists, Andy's sure that he'll make his mark. He could never have bargained for what he'll find.

I vividly remember being a teen and reading Stephen King' s Misery, every ounce of me wishing that those parts, the ones like an old adventure epic and the serials of an age before even my father's day, were real books. Well, the author is different, and clearly the themes aren't quite the same, but I genuinely feel like this book has finally satisfied those dreams by offering a vivid pulp narrative featuring bits of adventure, suspense, horror, Lovecraftian mythos, and a collection of characters who far outshine many of those written about in the real pulps. Even better, this book contains none of the dubious racist, sexist, and culturally toxic traits many of them were known for. I was all in on this one from beginning to end, and that's saying something!
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‘Cult of the Spider Queen’ was always going to be difficult for me, and it took quite a lot to open this one. I’m not a huge fan of spiders, let’s say, and from the start, the creepiness of the story felt like those little (and not so little) legs starting to work their way insidiously down my spine.

This book is absolutely the stuff of Saturday afternoon matinee movies. Leaving civilization behind, the characters travel far into the jungle, looking for a lost group of film-makers who apparently found the fabled Spider Queen. Did they survive? Is the Queen real? What about rival groups of treasure-seekers hot on our heroes’ trail? Will they make it back alive?

Imagine a cub reporter, a beautiful (and apparently wealthy) heroine, a brave tracker and her crew… and then the flickering lights of a black and white silent movie, with not-quite-visible shapes moving in the shadows around an ancient shrines and jungle leaves. This was uncomfortable because of the spiders and the legends, but absolutely gripping in its action-and-excitement atmosphere!
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Cult of the Spider Queen

S.A. Sidor

Aconyte Books

I’m always excited to review books published by Aconyte Books, one of the most impressive and exciting new publishers to establish themselves in the past few years, and even moreso when it’s a title written by an author whose works I’ve previously enjoyed. Such is the case with S.A. Sidor, whose Arkham Horror novel The Last Ritual was published late last year, and which I thoroughly enjoyed, finding it to be a suprtly written, deftly plotted and highly imaginative take on the Arkham Horror setting, demonstrating Sidor’s innate understanding of how the decaying, sumptuous decor of Jazz Age Arkham hides a horrifying underside. It was a fantastic addition to Aconyte’s Arkham Horror range, and as such I was thrilled to find out that Sidor had recently published another Arkham Horror title – and one that was peripherally connected to The Last Ritual. As the back-cover blurb for Cult of the Spider Queen tells us, Arkham Advertiser reporter Andy van Nortwick (survivor of Sidor’s previous novel) receives a mysterious film reel through the mail, with a note that simply states ‘Maude Brion is alive’. Brion is a famous actress and film director who went missing years ago during an expedition into the Amazon in search of the fabled Spider Queen. Intrigued, and sensing the prospect for a huge story, Nortwick gathers together the funds for his own expedition, recruiting explorers and a folklorist to accompany him on his own expedition in pursuit of Brion. But as the expedition battles through the steamy undergrowth of the jungle, Nortwick slowly realizes that this may be a journey none of them come back from as they enter a web of terorr where reality and dreams blur together into one. I couldn’t wait to see what Sidor had in store for me, and jumped right into the story.

As the novel begins, novice reporter Andy van Nortwick risks his career to have a mysterious package assigned to him, intensely curious as to why someone in the depths of the Amazon rainforest would be sending a package to the Arkham Advertiser, and even moreso why they would label it as something that needed to be urgently opened. It seems strange, certainly, but after his experiences in the Silver Gate hotel (during the events of The Last Ritual) he’s more inclined to believe in strange and even unearthly things occurring. Andy’s gambit pays off, the package being delivered to him at his desk, and he opens it to discover a film canister – and that cryptic note claiming Maude Brion is alive. The film real inside the canister showcases a bizarre tale – Maude Brion and her party of explorers and film crew making their way up the Amazon, filming the strange, eerie ruins they find, covered in unusual spider motifs, only to encounter a group of strangers who seem to ambush them as something that looks worryingly like a gigantic spider web threatens to cover explorers and ambushers alike. The film cuts off there, with no indication as to whether Brion and her party survived, or who sent the film to the newspaper.

Desperate to find out the answers to these questions, Andy embarks on a desperate attempt to gather funding for an expedition from his newspaper and a mining tycoon, aided by a mysterious anthropologist who claims to have a link to the region and the Spider Queen cult itself, and a pair of veteran explorers and guides roped into the expedition by promises of funding and finding out the truth about the Cult of the Spider Queen. Successful in gaining the money needed, based on the dubious concept of finding hidden gold mines alongside the missing filmmaker, Andy assembles his small group of explorers and leaves for Brazil. However, the journey appears to be an uphill battle from the start: the inexperienced Andy struggles to keep the peace between the members of his increasingly-fractious team, and the journey into the Brazilian interior is exhausting, perilous and slow, without any clear goal in sight. Once a sinister and antagonistic rival is added, the rakish and deeply untrustworthy Ashley Lott who is also leading an expedition into the Amazon; as well as the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the anthropologist and her eerie connection to her dead partner, lost in the Amazon some time earlier in search of the Spider Queen, it rapidly becomes clear to Andy that he may be over his head – and on a one-way journey to meet with the Spider Queen and her minions.

I absolutely adored the intriguing writing style that Sidor uses in Cult of the Spider Queen, which is so radically different to that of his previous Arkham Horror novel. Where the writing style in The Last Ritual was fluid, smooth, and almost languid in its approach – deftly reflecting the artistic atmosphere and background of the events of the novel – the style found in this novel is curt, clipped, almost staccato in nature that makes every page seem like a page from the script of a Jazz Era Hollywood film. It creates a much tenser and paranoic atmosphere as the narrative progresses, and things become far less certain and infinitely more dangerous for the intrepid journalist and his colleagues; and Sidor’s ability to adjust their entire writing style to match the requirements of the story is a clear demonstration of his immense talents as an author. Dovetailed with that narrative approach is Sidor’s ability to deftly evoke the eerie, often inhuman nature of the Amazon as both environment and backdrop, populated with strange, lethal wildlife and littered with the rotting, abandoned rubber plantations and rare metal mines that form the detritus of European Colonialism and its exploitation of the area and its inhabitants. Such is the author’s skill at evoking this environment – even before the more overt Lovecraftian elements are slyly brought into play and integrated into the narrative – that you often feel like you’re walking  – and sailing – alongside the ill-fated explorers as they march through the relentless heat and cut their way through more vegetation while being harassed by the human – and increasingly inhuman – foes. As the story progresses, the physical, mental and spiritual begin to blur together with increasing intensity and regularity, with Sidor evoking some genuinely horrifying and deeply haunting sequences; particularly memorable to me now, even weeks after finishing the novel, are those moments featuring the items Sidor memorably nicknames the ‘Death Chandeliers’. Dog-faced ghouls consuming human flesh, gigantic arachnids that flit between trees and vines, and even stranger and more terrifying creatures are brought into play as Andy and his colleagues reach their final destination deep within the jungle and it becomes apparent that the veil between our reality and Lovecraft’s Dreamland has been permanently breached.

That brilliant narrative work and atmospheric writing is allied with some absolutely superb characterisation, easily matching Sidor’s previous work in The Last Ritual and in the process creating – in this reviewer’s opinion – some of the most engaging and memorable characters in all of Aconyte’s on-going Arkham Horror series. Andy van Nortwick was already an interesting character when he briefly appeared in The Last Ritual, and I’m glad that Sidor made the decision to put him front and centre of this next novel, because the Arkham Advertiser journalist proves to be a superb protagonist for the story. His naive yet relentless determination meshes well with the overall arc of the narrative, and his characterization as a whole nicely dovetails with that clipped, short writing style that’s almost like the sort of dictation-style text used by period journalists; Andy moves from one fact to the next while he chases the story that could make his career, even when those facts become less and less grounded in reality, and more and more ephemeral. He helps to ground both the story and the reader’s sense of engagement with the story, and thereby accentuates the increasingly unreal and disturbing elements introduced in the last third of the novel. That solid, three-dimensional characterization extends to the trio of female characters that form most of the supporting cast of the novel – and much of the time are actually far more interesting than van Nortwick. Iris Bennett Reed, an anthropologist with a hidden agenda and a complex past, is attempting to redeem the academic research conducted by her and her deceased partner; he haunts her dreams every night with eerie, feverish visions of how he was left, dying and helpless, in the jungle during a previous, disastrous expedition to locate the Spider Queen. Sidor does an excellent job of obscuring her exact motivations, and leaving us guessing until the last page as to whether she is friend, foe – or something else altogether. Ursula Downs is a veteran explorer obsessed with raising enough money to locate the elusive and esoteric Leng plateau that she has become obsessed with, only to find some surprising – and potentially lethal – links to the plateau and its strange inhabitants during their expedition into the jungle. Even the mysterious Maude Brion, who only has a relatively short period of time in the novel, has an intriguing backstory and some delightfully bizarre behaviour once the explorers finally track her down in the jungle. Taken all together, the brilliant characterisation is yet another factor that makes Cult of the Spider Queen such an amazing read.

Given the incredibly high quality of all of the novels published by Aconyte Books under the Arkham Horror imprint, it says something that Sidor’s Cult of the Spider Queen is perhaps the most accomplished and most impressive Arkham Horror novel in the series that I have read to this point. Superbly written, deftly plotted and imbued with an absolutely first-rate cast of characters that easily retain the reader’s attention until the very last page, Cult of the Spider Queen is a highly-polished and deeply impressive slice of Jazz-Era horror, with Sidor demonstrating his rapidly-increasingly skills and talents as an author, as well as his innate understanding of both the Arkham Horror setting and Lovecraftian Horror in general. It’s a superb entry in the on-going Arkham Horror series, which is going from strength to strength under the skilful eye of Aconyte Books editor Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells, and I cannot wait to see more from Sidor. If that is under the Arkham Horror imprint then excellent – but I would also be deeply intrigued to see what he can produce on his own outside any strictures imposed by external intellectual properties. I think it would be even better than what Cult of the Spider Queen demonstrates he can create.
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My thanks to Aconyte Books for an advance review copy via NetGalley of ‘Cult of the Spider Queen: An Arkham Horror Novel’ by S A Sidor in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second novel that I have read recently by Sidor in the Arkham Horror series of historical horror mysteries. 

Like the Lovecraft-inspired game it is set in the 1920s. I felt that its title and lurid pulp fiction cover art were just perfect and set the mood for the novel. 

The central character is Arkham Advertiser reporter, Andy Van Nortwick. In Sidor’s ‘The Last Ritual’, in which Andy appeared as a supporting character, he had mused to himself: ‘A trip into the Amazon jungle! Now there was a place where stories were ripe for the picking. … A journalist could write a big, fat book about it.’

This was a nice bit of foreshadowing as here Andy intercepts a parcel sent to the newspaper from the Amazon. Inside is a film reel with a note reading: “Maude Brion is very much alive!”. It heralds the start of a journey into the unknown for Andy. 

Brion, a famous actress and film director, had vanished a year ago during an ill-fated expedition into the Amazon rainforest where she was making a documentary about the legend of the Spider Queen. 

Andy is thrilled by the prospect of a successful rescue mission, which could be his big break. He secures funding, joins up with other explorers and a folklorist and it’s off to the Amazon. However, it’s not long before they are caught up in a web of terror. Taking a riverboat up the Amazon what could possibly go wrong?

This was a highly entertaining pulp horror adventure that included many horror tropes associated with Lovecraft, cosmic entities, giant spiders, other monsters, luminous fungi, and a dangerous jungle setting. Being mildly arachnophobic it was extra chilling for me when the spiders made an appearance.

Along with film and film-making being an important factor in the story, I felt that the novel had a very cinematic feel to it in how Sidor presented the story, characters, and setting. 

Overall, I found ‘Cult of the Spider Queen’ great pulp fiction fun with plenty of action, thrills, and creepy moments. A great treat for fans of period horror, HP Lovecraft and of course, Arkham Horror.
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I absolutely adore the Arkham Horror books that Aconyte have been producing. Despite being based on the same game, which is based on the literary world created by one person, each and every one of them has brought something new and unique to the table; and none more obviously so than their latest offering, Cult of the Spider Queen by S. A. Sidor.

As the name of the series suggest, the vast majority of the Arkham Horror stories take place in and around the city of Arkham. We've had a few tales that expand that a bit, spreading out into the surrounding area, and even a few short stories that have features snippets in France during World War One, or ancient Greece. But for the most part these are small excursions whilst the majority of the story takes place in a setting we know. This book, on the other hand, plays things very differently, with only the first handful of chapters set in Arkham before the action moves to the heart of the Amazon rain-forest. 

As the story begins we follow Andy van Nortwick, a young reporter working at the Arkham Adviser who's looking for his big break to get him noticed. He thought that he'd found it in the past when he brought a story of strange cults and mysterious disappearances to his editor (a fantastic nod to the fact that Andy briefly appeared in Sidor's previous Arkham Horror title, The Last Ritual) but was laughed out of the room. He needs something big, something that will make him stand out, and that won't end up with him being ridiculed once again.

When Andy spots a strange looking package in the Adviser's mail room, a package sent from the Amazon, he sneakily scribbles his name onto it; sure that whatever is inside is a good story. What he gets is an roll of film, one that documents part of a lost film crew's journey into the rain-forest in search for the fabled Spider Queen. Along with the film is a note telling Andy that the film's director, a famous actress named Maude Brion, is alive. Having been lost for a year, Andy knows that if he's able to find Maude and bring her home it'll make him famous; and if he finds evidence of this fabled Spider Queen too he'll be able to make money off the story.

Andy sets out across Arkham to find funding for his expedition to the Amazon, and convinces a wealthy businessman to fund the trip with the promise of gold on the horizon. Along the way he picks up a mysterious anthropologist who knows about the Spider Queen, and seems to have an agenda of her own; as well as a pair of adventurers and archaeologists who can lead him through the jungle. With the team all set, they head out to the Amazon, hoping to use the information in the film to lead them to Maude. However, they didn't expect to find strange visions, giant monsters, men from other worlds, and a strange cult waiting for them. Now they've ended up simply fighting to stay alive as they try to find their own way home again.

I'm going to say straight away that I absolutely loved the set-up for this story. The missing film crew, the footage sent in the mail, the journey to the Amazon. It felt so different and so fun and I was so down for it. The beginning of the film felt like the set-up of a found footage movie, where the mysterious film reveals something spooky happening deep in the rain-forest and a team gets together to go and find out what's happened; whilst the story being set in a harsh, unforgiving environment felt like a throwback to old adventure horror films like The Creature From the Black Lagoon and The Mummy. I don't know how this book discovered all the boxes I liked ticked, but it absolutely nailed it.

As most of the book is set in the rain-forest it quickly becomes apparent that the book won't be relying on the dark and brooding nature of Arkham, and instead goes for a very different kind of horror. The story doesn't rely on the bizarre and the unsettling creeping into familiar environments to make the reader feel on edge, but uses the alien like nature of the jungle to do it. Most of us won't be familiar with the Amazon; we won't have been there or travelled on those waters, but we know how it's supposed to work. As such when the jungle falls eerily quiet we know that that's wrong, and it makes things feel even scarier and unsettling.

But Sidor doesn't just rely on the strange setting to ramp up the tension. There are some scenes in this book that are easily some of the most bizarre, disturbing, and unsettling things I've read in this series. When the team head out from their boat in canoes things start to go wrong for them. They lose track of each other, get lost, time doesn't flow right, and they encounter strange things waiting for them in the trees. It's like they get stuck in nightmares, drawn into a warping, ever changing reality. It makes for some unsettling moments, ones that begin to introduce some of the bolder story beats, and also means that you're never quite sure if you can trust what you're reading to be real or not. Sidor seems to know how to mess with the reader, to give them just enough doubt and unease to feel like everything they know is wrong, and that they can't trust what's going on.

But Sidor is also great at creating some compelling characters too, and our core cast are wonderful to follow. With most of the Arkham Horror books there tends to be one of two lead characters, with perhaps a third coming into the story for a short while. On a whole they keep the attention on just one or two people in order to tell their stories. As such, Cult of the Spider Queen ends up feeling a lot bigger with its focus on four principal leads; as well as some chapters told from other points of view too. It adds a sense of scope to the tale, reminds readers that this isn't just a story with one central lead, but an ensemble piece.

The characters are really likeable too. Andy is a eager young man, one who desperately wants to prove himself and show the world that he has what it takes to be a good writer. Whilst his mission to find Maude is motivated by a desire to find a good story he does care about bringing her home too. He isn't just using her disappearance for his own ends, and is willing to put his own life on the line to help others around him. Ursula and Jake, the two experienced explorers of the group are a great duo, are two people who clearly care a lot about each other and will try to put the other first. However, each of them acknowledges that the other can take care of themselves, and puts protecting those less experienced than them first. And then there's Iris, a woman who clearly has more going on than first meets the eye, and is hiding things from the others; but despite this seems to be a pretty decent person, one who doesn't always put her wants first if it means endangering the other members of the group.

They're a bit of a rag-tag bunch, and there are times that they butt heads and come to disagreements, but it's clear that they're all pretty decent people, and when things start to go wrong they all look out for each other and try and help where they can. This adds to the story feeling like one of those classic adventure movies, where the team has to come together in order to make it home again, learning to step-up and take risks to save the team, or having to give up on their destructive goals lest it end in tragedy.

One of the things that Sidor does really well too is the segments of the book that are written as if you're watching the small snippets of film that have been recorded. Translating exactly how the camera moves, what is seen on screen, can be difficult, and making sure that the reader sees exactly what you want them to isn't always guaranteed. But the moments where we got to see through the eye of the film were incredibly well done. It felt like watching the film, rather than just getting a description of what it was showing. It really helped to put me in the moment, as well as making me feel the tension of the scenes.

Cult of the Spider Queen is the kind of book that I wasn't expecting to get in the Arkham Horror series. It gave readers bold, new ways to bring the Lovecraftian horror to an interesting and unique environment without it feeling like it was another project all together. It might only begin in Arkham, but this is unmistakably in the same universe as the other other stories; just one that feels a lot bigger now. I really hope that we get more titles like this, one that take big chances and try bold things, because this was absolutely fantastic.
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An Arkham Horror novel

I received an advance reader copy of this book from Aconyte Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is the latest in a series from Aconyte based on the Arkham Horror board game. I’ve never played the game, but I enjoy reading horror so decided to give this one a try. I missed the previous book(s) in this series, so I’m not sure if characters overlap from one book to the next, but I get the feeling that the books in this particular series may be standalone stories.


When an Arkham, MA newspaper receives a mysterious package in the mail, a struggling young reporter senses a potential big story in the making and adds his own name to the mailing address so he can be the one to open it. It contains a cannister of film featuring an actress/director who has been missing in the Amazon for more than a year. The reporter arranges financing for an expedition to search for her and hiring a team of experienced adventurers to serve as his guides. The team discovers that the actress was trying to track down worshippers of the Spider Queen, but is she only a rumored jungle deity, or is she something more sinister?

I gave Cult of the Spider Queen five stars. Like much of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, it is based in the 1920s, so the time period rings true. Fortunately, the writing avoids Lovecraft’s paranoid tone while capturing many of the themes his horror fiction contained.
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I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I love a good spider horror so when I saw this, I knew I had to have it. I am scared of spiders which makes it even better. 

The characters were well written and well developed. I enjoyed getting to know them. I loved the time line of the book. It reminded me of the old horror books ad movies of the 1920/ and 1930's. I'm a big fan of the setting. I love when horror takes place in a jungle with all the creepy crawly things.

I will definitely be reading more from this author!
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3.5/4

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a great horror/sci-fi book. I’m still looking but this one came closer than many others. It has amazing pulpy throwback vibes (which I loved!), but I just wish it was a bit more exciting. 

Thank you for this opportunity!
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I loved this book- its everything i wanted, an extremely adventurous story, 3 dimensional characters, and generally and off putting antagonist! I really love the main character so so much because he’s just so relatable. His sense of adventure and drive to go on throughout the story even though he’s inexperienced was inspiring!
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[Some spoilers ahead!]

As a big fan of cosmic horror, I was looking forwards to this read. The name immediately intrigued me - I wanted to know who this "Spider Queen" was, I also adored the drawn art style of the cover. Both of these elements in combination made me excited to begin the book.

Now that I've finished reading, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! The beginning hooked me, because I wanted to know if there was an otherworldly being compelling Andy to look within the box, beginning his adventure. There are many moments throughout the story where you wonder, "is this REALLY what the character is thinking, or has someone else put this thought in their head?" which is genuinely unnerving to think about. I loved this, because it was creepy without being blatantly so. In all, I'd say the book did a fantastic job of being a horror novel. It makes me wonder what truly occurred, which is what I love with cosmic horror; that feeling of uncertainty for what was real.

For the most part, I liked the characters. I really liked how it switched perspectives between people (and creatures) every chapter. It stopped things from feeling stale. I do wish the Spider Queen herself, or her subordinate, were fleshed out more; but on the other hand, I'm still thinking about the book BECAUSE I wonder who she is. I think we got a sufficient amount of backstory for most of the characters, except for Ashley and his crew. That group only showed up a handful of times, and didn't really feel like a threat. I forgot about them until they popped up near the end.

My favourite part was the setting. The author did a great job of portraying the otherworld. The time distortion was incredibly cool, and the descriptions of monsters was just detailed enough to be scary. I've always loved jungles and forests. The idea of one being completely quiet is eerie. 

All in all, I loved the book! I can't wait to read more by this publisher, and books in the Arkham Horror series. I've given it 5 stars because I'm still thinking about it, and I'm excited to recommend it to friends. It was a short read, but a scary one. It left me with so many questions, but enough answers that I feel satisfied.
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This type of book isn’t my normal go to, I tend to stick to murder mystery types but I’ve been challenging myself to step out my comfort zone and this book done exactly that. Sidor has done an amazing job at setting the scene throughout this book. I generally felt immersed in the surroundings and was able to perfectly picture the rainforest and what the characters were going through. It even got to the point where I felt so itchy and fidgety as if I had spiders crawling all over me, insane. Sidor also managed to make me feel connected to the characters, I started to really care for the main characters and even started to worry for them when things were going wrong. This along with the way each characters personalities were shown throughout the book just helped with the overall immersion of the book. 

I read this book in e-book format on my iPad, so I can’t speak for the physical copy, but this book is larger than most I have read. When I first opened the book on my iPad it showed 787 pages, which for a slow reader is scary. However the chapters were short, and anyone who has read my previous blog posts will know I LOVE short chapters. For me, short chapters makes it a lot easier to read more in one sitting. Its like when you’re binging a show on Netflix, another 20 min episode is nothing so you stick it on and before you know it it’s six episodes later. Well that’s the same with short chapters, you think ‘aw ok just one more as its small’ and before you know if you’ve read 10! 

As much as I loved this book, there were a few things that just didn’t make sense to me. A character named Ashely Lott is introduced early on when the main team make it so the Amazon, but then he is forgotten about until right near the end. And even when he is brought back I just don’t see why. Personally I think Ashley Lott should have been more involved throughout the story, or just completely left out. He just seems a tad unnecessary to the overall story, and I wouldn’t miss him. Also, I feel like the ending didn’t offer up much of a conclusion. A lot happens in the final chapters, in a tad rushed form, and the ending just seems very abrupt in a way. I would have liked a but more of a story about what happened once they returned home, but instead I was just left a bit unsatisfied. 

Overall, Cult of the Spider Queen was a very captivating and different read for me. The mystery of it all mixed with the slightly surreal nature of the book was fascinating. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone for this book, and I urge people to go and read it once its published - 7 December 2021.
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Review: Cult of the Spider Queen, An Arkham Horror novel by S.A. Sidor
As always I want to start by thanking Netgalley and Aconyte for providing me with this e-Arc in exchange for a fair and honest review.
 
Previous to this title I have also read The Last Ritual An Arkham Horror Novel by S A Sidor which was fantastic but I had actually discovered S A Sidor with his Fury from The Tomb and The Beat of Nightfall Lodge. Sidor is fantastic at what it does with his descriptive and sometimes visceral writing style that suits the world of Arkham Horror.
 
In his latest novel we follow a rag tag team facing an ancient horror deep in the Amazon jungle which spins a web of nightmares to ensnare adventurers and explorers alike along with their souls. Be ready to have your skin crawl as this tale of cosmic dread entraps you in its web.
 
Andy van Nortwick is a reporter of the Arkah Advertiser who dreams of having that one big break. He may eventually regret it when he receives a mysterious film reel in the mail with a simple note within; “Maude Brion is very much alive!”. Sensing his big break is just around the corner Andy steps onto a path which will lead him to the brink of madness. The famous actress and film director, Brion, vanished a year ago on an ill-fated expedition into the Amazon rainforest, delving into the Spider Queen legend. Thrilled by the prospects, Nortwick swings the funds to launch a rescue mission. Gathering a little bit of a mix match team of a keen folklorist and a team of explorers to bring back Brion and cement his reputation. But deep in the Amazon jungle, the boundaries between dreamers, intrepid adventurers and deranged fanatics can blur and become intermingled in a web of terror.
 
Once again I will not spoil much else of the plot of the novel. Needless to say this is not a good read for the Arachnophobia sufferer, unless you want to really push and maybe even punish yourself. Thankfully I have come to somewhat admire the spider (not to the extant of the fanatics, no cults will be springing up in the UK any time soon!) so I found it an interesting premise for the focus of a cosmic horror. It’s no secret if you have read any of Sidor’s other works that he is a master at describing things that give a sense of unease or the uncanny be it in old evil Mummy’s to evil Surrealist Artists you are sure to be on the edge of your seat and maybe feel the odd shudder. So with a topic like ‘Spider Queens’ you know it’s going to be good.
 
Again I do not want to spoil anything but as the film is already mentioned I feel it’s safe to say. The description of this section was near perfection. While staying in prose form Sidor invokes the actions and shots of the film so much so that it was almost like I was watching the film myself not just reading it on the page. I’ve only seen one other author do this and do it well which is Stephan Graham Jones, although there may be others, and it is an amazing and almost mesmerising skill. Generally all readers have good imaginations, we need them of course. But the way this particular piece was written was so visual but it didn’t just tell. It wasn’t a ‘this happens and now that happens’ it was written perfectly. Honestly, it was one thing that really stood out.
 
On top of this the characters are fantastic. Each one has their own well developed personality and traits that work well and create a sense of believability. I was also a little too excited for the Percy Fawcett references since I currently live near where he lived. It also added a sense of reality to the story, grounding it in the time period it is set and making it more believable and arguably more creepy. I might admire Spiders but the idea of a cult or large cosmic horrors living in the Amazon is not exactly something that instills a sense of joy.
 
All in all though the novel is a fantastic creepy (and crawly) read. It builds the perfect balance of tension and suspense while keeping you intrigued and wanting more. A must read for fans of horror, cosmic horror,  rip-roaring adventure, Lovecraftian inspired work or spiders in general!
 
The ebook of this title will be available worldwide on December the 7th 2021 with the US paperback following the 7th  December 2021. For the UK the revised release date is the 17th February 2022 but it most definitely will be worth the wait and I already have it on preorder! So don’t delay and do the same. Some of the places you can get your hands the ebook include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Indigo. For the paperbacks there is Amazon (including but not limited to US, Canada, Germany, Italy and the UK), as well as Barnes and Nobel, Indiebound, Waterstones, Blackwells and the Book Depository among others.

S.A Sidor is the Author of four dark crime thrillers and more recently two splendid supernatural-pulp adventures, Fury from The Tomb and The Beast of Nightfall Lodge. He lives near Chicago with his family.

Aconyte Books are the novel division of Asmodee Entertainment. Asmodee Entertainment is based in an amazing building in Nottingham, England. The Star Brewery opened in 1852, producing beer for Shipstones until 1991.
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My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Aconyte Books for an advanced copy of this horror novel.

Take an unfamiliar setting, the Amazon of the 1920's, complete with abandoned rubber plantations and strange creatures of the forests prowling just out of eyesight. Add in ghost ships, large spiders magicians, a film crew and eldritch horror and you have the perfect under the covers read in Cult of the Spider Queen by S. A. Sidor. Based on the game system Arkham Horror, these is the fourth book that takes place in the setting. I was unfamiliar with this iteration, I used to play Call of Cthulhu back in the day, but you don't need to be familiar with the game to enjoy the story, which is quite pulpy and good. 

The setting is like I said quite pulpy and different. The characters are all different and fully formed, including the female characters which in most pulps would be screaming in fear, or femme fatales. One is the leader of the group and another is an anthropologist with a secret, but all are different, and well developed. 

The story starts with a film can, which is unique, delivered to the local Arkham newspaper, where it is intercepted by a young reporter desperate for a break. The film shows a missing female film director and some strange goings on in the Amazon. Soon an expedition is launched to find the director and her crew, and maybe some treasure along the way. Strange horrific things ensue. Real rip-roaring pulpy goodness. However unlike the pulps where horrors are seen, there are real consequences for peering into the Dreamlands, which is more Lovecraftian then boy's own adventure stories. 

As I wrote, I have not read the other books in this series, and I feel that I am missing out on some really good stories. Not just a good adventure tale, but for fans of Lovecraft and the mythos he created, minus the racism. A very good tale.
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I do not know how it did it, but this was like a found footage film in book form and love almost every minute of it! The story starts with our young and eager reporter Andy looking for the story of a life time after he finds a mysterious package from the Amazon in his office’s mail room. From there he finds a film depicting a famous actress who went missing and it turns into this big hunt for the Maude and the Spider Queen she was on the hunt for. 
I’ll admit the book did have some slow parts or parts that dragged on a little longer than they needed to be, but I always found myself going back for more because it would hook me with a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter or just an odd detail of the rainforest and what was happening to our characters. 
Overall, if you like horror, especially cosmic horror, I urge you to give this one a try! It’s giving me old Hollywood horror vibes in the best way!

I did receive this book for free in exchange for an honest review! #netgalley #cultofthespiderqueen
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Cult of the Spider Queen will never win awards as a literary novel, but it's a rollicking fun read. Think King Kong but with big spiders and no New York or Faye Wray. After a young reporter sneaks a mystery package out of the mail room, he heads to the Amazon to find a missing woman filmmaker and giant spiders. Yikes! You know how you go to horror movies and shout, "Don't go in that room!" Spider Queen makes you wonder why they went down that tributary, why they went on that warship that smelled bad, why they went into that shrine and on and on. But, it wouldn't be much of a horror story if all the characters thought things out. Don't go near that cave! Oh shoot, they did it anyway.

Lots of bodies wrapped up in webs, creepy kidnappers with horns, even a trip to the moon. And spiders!

Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to read and review an eArc of Cult of the Spider Queen.
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Ah, spiders. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s lot of ‘em in “Cult of the Spider Queen”, the latest skincrawling story in the Arkham Horror series, so arachnophobes beware. I should know, I am one. 
A mysterious package takes plucky Arkham Advertiser reporter Andy van Nortwick to the jungles of the Amazon on the trail of missing actress and movie director, Maude Brion, who vanished a year ago but is rumoured to be alive. What Andy and his team of explorers find there will drive them to the edge of sanity and take the reader along for the ride. 
This is the first novel from the Arkham Horror range that I’ve read and if it’s indicative of the quality of the other books then I’ll be reading them ASAP. Author S.A.Sidor captures the era beautifully and writes so well that this book will definitely not be the one to make me love spiders. In one scene there are thousands of them which will test the resolve of even the most ardent arachnid lover. And, yes, there really is a Spider Queen, and she’s big, but Sidor keeps her mostly in the shadows which is very effective. There is also a strong Lovecraftian vibe which is a constant, oppressive presence in the background of the story. The characters are well-rounded and believable and the story is perfectly paced. Chapters are short and snappy making the book a real page-turner. 
From the gloriously schlocky (in a good way) title to the exacting 1920s period details, “Cult of the Spider Queen” is a note-perfect, pulpy rollercoaster that reminds me of those weekly cinema serials back in the day such as “Flash Gordon” and King of the Rocketmen”, and it would be awesome if it was developed now for TV or a movie. This book is a must for horror fans and masochistic spider-haters alike.
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Cult of the Spider Queen is a rip-roaring 1920s set story that mostly takes place in the depths of the mysterious Amazonian jungle. Here, the fabled Spider Queen lives and junior reporter, Andy, of the Arkham Advertiser has snagged his way into a journey there, hoping to find the story that will make his name, if he can locate missing starlet, Maude Brion.

S.A.Sidor writes beautifully. The story flows well, the language and descriptions of that time are spot on and as an arachnophobie, the scene where there there are literally thousands of spiders made my skin crawl.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery/horror tale, but I’d rather hoped for more of a showdown at the end between the spider queen and Andy and his crew. We kept getting glimpses of this spider, but I’d wanted more, but that’s just my personal preference and there may be enough for others.
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I loved this book it was atmospheric and creepy and just a good read, writing, characters and story were all good, an enjoyable read
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Aconyte to me, over the last half dozen books or so, has become synonymous with Arkham Horror. The card and board games feature Lovecraftian horror taking place in or around Arkham during the roaring 20's and the authors at Aconyte have perfectly encapsulated that in prose form.

So, when I saw that they announced a new book taking place in the Amazon forest with SA Sidor at the helm, who previously wrote The Last Ritual, I was immediately interested. Now, before I begin this review I would like to say that I was given a review copy, but I have still pre-ordered a physical copy of this book so my money is on the line just as yours is. I have been an Arkham Horror board and card game player for 3+ years, and a Lovecraft reader for about 15.

As previously mentioned; Aconyte and SA Sidor have previously done Arkham Horror justice, and Cult of the Spider Queen keeps that track record going. It starts with an actress and her camera crew becoming lost in the Amazon jungle and a reporter, Andy, finding a film reel and note saying that the actress is still alive.

What follows is an Indiana Jones adventure with Lovecraftian horror beautifully mixed in. Andy goes to the Amazon Jungle to get the story of his career with a group of explorers (including an Arkham Horror fan favorite) and quickly realizes this is not the trip they were expecting, and maybe his crew isn't either.

I will state that an Arkham Horror adventure taking place in the Amazon, with a particular main character has an easily predictable associating campaign and Lovecraft story. I will also state that The Cult of the Spider Queen does not fall in to that easily predictable story line. Sidor blends multiple aspects of the Lovecraft mythos with the Arkham Horror universe and creates a sense of dread that will make you feel that something is watching you just out of your periphery, and unfortunately for our protagonists that is exactly the case. 

Sidor and Aconyte do not disappoint with the latest addition to the Arkham Horror universe. Sidor is obviously someone well acquainted with Lovecraft and the Arkham Horror games and knows how to use them to blend together a very haunting story that will give Lovecraft and Arkham Horror fans nightmares.

And there are spiders. So...many...spiders.
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