Cover Image: The Sacrifice

The Sacrifice

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Member Reviews

3.5 rounded up to 4.
Pristine beaches, lush greenery, and perfect weather, the island of Kisapmata would be the vacation destination...if not for the curse. The Filipino locals speak of it in hushed voices and refuse to step foot on the island. They know the lives it has claimed. They won't be next.

A Hollywood film crew won't be dissuaded. Legend claims a Dreamer god sleeps, waiting to grant unimaginable powers in exchange for eight sacrifices. The producers are determined to document the evidence. And they convince Alon, a local teen, to be their guide.

Within minutes of their arrival, a giant sinkhole appears, revealing a giant balete tree with a mummified corpse entwined in its gnarled branches. And the crew start seeing strange visions. Alon knows they are falling victim to the island's curse. If Alon can't convince them to leave, there is no telling who will survive. Or how much the Dreamer god will destroy...

Chupeco has a really distinctive style and creates interesting and intriguing characters that are hard not to either love or hate and The Sacrifice is full of many of these. The storyline is full of mystery and tension and kept me guessing what was going to happen next… but more importantly… who would be next!

I really enjoy the way Chupeco uses traditional culture, history and mythology in her writing to add a sense of realism to her spooky tales and it’s fun learning new things about cultures I normally wouldn’t be exposed to.

My only qualm with The Sacrifice is that the plot kind of dragged towards the end and I would have liked a snappier, more impactful ending. Overall though, very enjoyable.
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Very fun read if you enjoy haunted islands, Hollywood and an animal companion. Enjoyed the imagery and overall unsettling atmosphere it gave. Short chapters which is also a plus. A lot of action, humor and hard to put down.
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I’d love to interview Rin for my podcast. I’m not usually a fan of horror but I loved The Sacrifice. Rin’s prose is beautiful and the world -building really pulls you in.
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Thanks to Sourcebooks for the DRC of the book!

If I have to rate this book for the setting, I’ll give it 5 stars, closing my eyes.

This book is set on a fictional island, Kisapmata, warned not to explore. The warnings never worked for the cultists before; or the present Hollywood crew, who were dead set on filming a horror documentary on the island. The curse around the island didn’t faze them either; it only fueled their anticipation to pursue the supernatural.

Like any other horror story with a curse, it was a catalyst to push the plot forward. This book opens with a curse that entails 8 sacrifices to awaken the god, who is supposedly asleep in the island. The curse keeps slipping into the story, often reminding us of the clock ticking for those on the island who didn’t heed the warnings.

One person who could roam around the island well was our MC, Alon. He and his dog were familiar with the island and were favored by Diwata. He agreed to help the crew film their documentary and was the only local source willing to speak about the island.

This story is heavily built around the lore of balete trees which are native to Philippines. Those trees seem to have a reputation for real ( source: google) and were extremely creepy in the book. I was thrilled to see what role they played in the curse and eventually in the story.

The curse we stumble upon has been since the Spaniards came to the island to colonize and loot the treasure hidden there. The sacrifices didn't happen in a stretch- they were dated back to centuries, decades to the present, a continuum of time. The curse also affected those who were remotely related to the crew members on the island.

It was interesting to read how the crew members interpreted the curse. Ultimately, their greed and ambitions instigated the actions to fulfill the curse and made it everything more sinister.

This one's just my opinion. The venus fly trarp monster is a netflix trademark, overused in horror series and movies, so I wanted the monsters to be anything but that.

We  also had a good 50-65% of the book familiarizing us the setting and the curse but the actual ball drops around 70% where things become gruesome. It would have been better if it happened halfway than saving it to the last quarter of the book.

But overall, this was one fine atmospheric standalone that was not bone-chilling terrifying but it had its moments; a prime candidate for your Halloween tbr.
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This book is better and more nuanced than I exprcted-- a refreshing and critical take on the tradition in western literature of commodifying other cultutes and turning everything sacred for profit and entertainment-- but it's all wrapped up in a creepy YA novel. Very well done
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When a film crew from the United States arrives on Kisapmata, a deserted island in the Philippines, they are ready to get to work. They need their new show to be a success and with the content they're after, it should be. For me it was easy to picture this crew and their motivations. I was thinking something around the lines of Discovery shows such as The Curse of Oak Island, or The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch. You know the type of show I mean.

The thing with Kisapmata island is that a God is reputed to live within the island. He goes by different names, some consider him a Death God, some call him the Dreamer, but he is said to have the ability to grant unknowable power in exchange for eight, very specific, sacrifices. Because of this legend, locals avoid the island as much as they can. It's uninhabited and while they do have knowledge and respect of it, they tend to give the God his space.

The crew does discover one local teen, Alon, said to have a special relationship with the island. They're a bit of a caretaker, spending a lot of time there and even maybe communing with the God. Considered an expert of all things Kisapmata, the film crew are delighted when Alon agrees to stay with them and be their guide during the show.

As they settle in and begin to set up, a giant sinkhole appears in the middle of their camp. In it, belying logic, is a giant balete tree with a mummified corpse wrapped amongst it creepy-as-heck branches. It's like the corpse has been feeding the tree for years, but who is it and more importantly, how the heck is this tree growing underground?

Thus begins the horror that is this little island. From there stuff escalates real quick. The crew needs to get their story, but is the payoff going to be worth it?

People start seeing things, visions of people long dead and it seems nowhere is safe. As a storm rages offshore, they lose communication and have no means of escape. Is anyone going to get off this island alive?

Y'all, y'all, y'all! First of all, this is the perfect time of year to pick up this book. This story has almost everything you need for a phenomenal reading experience. 

We have detailed and fascinating legends. We have, basically a curse. We have a dynamic film crew with well-fleshed out characters. We have a nonbinary main character. We have inclement weather trapping our cast at a remote location. We have atmosphere for days. We have stunning, toe-curling horror imagery. We have scenes that will make you sleep with the lights on. 

The tension builds very quickly and then continues to build. It's claustrophobic, it's a bit panic inducing, it's scary. I will say that the pace increases so much towards the end, that it almost got a bit too chaotic. I found it more difficult to track what was happening towards the end and challenging to picture in my mind all that was happening. Hence, it's not quite a 5-star for me.

That is 100% personal taste though, for many people, whose minds possibly work more quickly than my own, this will be a 5-star experience.

I have only read one other Rin Chupeco, The Girl from the Well, and I was super-impressed with the eeriness of that story as well. Chupeco definitely has the gift for horror. I would consider this to be a more-modern, YA-South Pacific version of The Ruins.

The Sacrifice is super-chilling and will stick with me for a long time to come. Chupeco truly knows how to set a scene. I had so much fun with this. 10-out-of-10 recommend!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Now I need to go back and devour Chupeco's backlist!!
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I'll start by saying that I loved the creepy island vibes, the Filipino myths, and the commentary on racism. This book had so many twists and turns, I really enjoyed myself reading, also I'd die for the dog.

I love when books incorporate different languages and this book had pieces of Tagalog, but as I don't read the language I can't speak on if it was accurate. Maybe look up reviews by actual Filipino reviewers if you want to see more about that. Overall I liked the spooky vibes and I would recommend it.
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Initially the set up for this book really intrigued me. However, the pacing was completely off for me. Every time an fast paced action scene happened, I felt so lost and like I had to run to catch up. There were moments where something big happened, like a character going missing, and I had no idea because I could not keep up with what was going on. Fortunately, it was a really fast read so it was easy to keep reading. The pacing really through me off, and I ended up not caring about what happened.
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I really wanted to like this one because I love Rin Chupeco's writing, however, I did not like this one. I couldn't connect with any of the characters and I didn't love the perspective that it was written in. I will be continuing to read from this author in the future and I hope that other people like this one more than I did.
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Defying warnings from locals, a Hollywood crew descends on Kisapmata, a remote island in the Philippines, to film a TV series about legends of a sleeping god and the cult that used human sacrifice to try to wake it. Alon knows Kisapmata better than anyone, and agrees to help the crew in the hopes of preventing anyone from getting hurt, cautioning the crew that the legends are true. The sins of the producers and executives begin to catch up with them, and the trees are hungry. Scary and engrossing, Rin Chupecho again creates a horror story that grips the reader and refuses to let go. An excellent read!
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This isn't a perfect book by any means, but I really enjoyed my time with it. I loved the creepy island vibes, the Filipino myths, the commentary on colonization and racism. I also loved that this was about a group of white people who go to a remote island, ignore all the warnings from local civilians, have zero respect for the culture and religion of the place, and then suffer for it by getting picked off one by one. Alon makes for a great main character, although I do think Askal the dog stole the show a little. I liked the twists and turns this story took, and was pretty satisfied with the ending.

I also really liked the inclusion of lines in Tagalog, but I've been told by a Filipina friend that the Tagalog reads a little stilted. I also looked up a few other reviews, and a Filipina reviewer also mentions the Tagalog, and goes a step further to say that it was the wrong language to use for the region the island is supposed to be located in.
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I really enjoyed this book. The fact that most off this book was entered around privileged white Americans encroaching on a space that wasn't theirs to enter, ignoring all the warnings and suffering the (horrifying, supernatural) consequences was something I never thought would become a plot point I would thoroughly enjoy but I did. 

This book also makes a budding queer relationship between a the son of one of the producers of the show and Alon (they/them) the local boy, with  a strange connection to the island, who tries repeated to warn the Hollywood people to get off the island.

The horror element of the story was amazing written, vividly detailed and sufficiently creepy without being  too much for the people who have a lower tolerance.

Also the twist! It was hinted at without being too obvious. I loved it.

If you are looking for more reviews from me, check out my YouTube channel here :
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Pristine beaches, lush greenery, and perfect weather, the island of Kisapmata would be the vacation destination...if not for the curse. The Philippine locals speak of it in hushed voices and refuse to step foot on the island. They know the lives it has claimed. They won't be next.
A Hollywood film crew won't be dissuaded. Legend claims a Dreamer god sleeps, waiting to grant unimaginable powers in exchange for eight sacrifices. The producers are determined to document the evidence. And they convince Alon, a local teen with an ailing father to take care of, to be their guide.
Within minutes of their arrival, a giant sinkhole appears, revealing a giant balete tree with a mummified corpse entwined in its gnarled branches. And the crew start seeing strange visions. Alon knows they are falling victim to the island's curse. If Alon can't convince them to leave, there is no telling who will survive. Or how much the Dreamer god will destroy...

The Sacrifice is full of Filipino folklore and history and I just wanted to reach into the pages and smack all the film crew members for not heeding Alon's warnings to get off the damned cursed train wreck of an island! I don't want to give too much away - I think it's best to go in kind of blind and let the horrors unfold before you. A perfect read for spooky season!
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This is a solidly spooky book with interesting mythology but aloof characters. I had a similar issue with Rin Chupeco’s Bone Witch series- their writing and world is beautiful but the characters feel at arm's length. Some of this is intentional- Alon is a mysterious protagonist- but it still hurt my immersion in the story at times.

This is really the only issue I had with the Sacrifice, so I would still recommend it. I loved having a non-binary protagonist, Chupeco’s writing, and the way issues of colonialism, historic trauma, and mythology played into the horror. It also had one of the more real feeling depictions of a social media star I’ve encountered in a book. At first, I was like “no way a hot guy tap dancing topless with a horsehead mask would go viral on tiktok” but then I realized no, that checks out. It’s just weirdly specific enough to feel like something real and also a fun jab at some of the sillier things attractive men go viral for. Chase is a himbo for the ages.

The contrast of the lush, beautiful location and the spooky happenings provided a nice tension and Chupeco excels at writing creepy imagery. I’d recommend with the caveat that the characters don’t feel as developed as the setting and scares.
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Spooky, atmospheric, and scary. This book is everything you'd want for a transition read from summer to spooky season. 
Thanks NetGalley for the ARC.
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DNF. I wasn’t aware when requesting that this book contains violence toward animals, which is a hard trigger for me, so I won’t be reviewing at this time. Highly recommend readers check this one out for themselves as the author is extremely talented!
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This was a solid YA horror story.
I am not filipino or overly familiar with the culture so I defiantly can’t lend any input on the accuracy of the lore here but I found it super interesting to read about. 

On the whole this horror did a good job of creeping me out! The strange figures, that stare back in the shadows, capturing glimpses in the windows or on cameras and the sheer panic and suspense was brilliant, one night I had to put it down because I kept spooking myself!

I did find it a little hard to connect with Alon. Askal on the other hand has lots of character to make up for it.
I think Alon’s character feels a little empty because of the part he plays and I did enjoy the developments with Chase. However there are many character to keep track of and a fair few didn’t feel overtly necessary to the story. I would have preferred more of the main character developments. 
I did love the inclusion and diversity of the characters very much.

Scene setting was good and atmospheric suspense was great! 

If you want a spooky, LGBTQIA+ Friendly, Southeast Asian inspire folk lore tale, this one is for you!
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When I got the notification that I was approved for Rin Chupeco's The Sacrifice I was ecstatic! I love all things horror and this book is putting me on the right path to a great spooky fall. 

I want to start this by saying that I am not Filipino, I am Mexican,  so I can not speak to how accurate the portrayal of the folklore being used, the language, or anything else about the Filipino culture is. If there is anything that I misspeak about in this post, please let me know. I am always open to listening to learning from other POCs. I am open to conversation, let me know what you didn't like, what I got wrong, and what I can do better. Thank you. 

As many might already know is that I am a huge horror fan. I love all things that go bump in the night and this story was exactly what I needed to get out of a slump and begin looking forward to the spooky Fall season. 

The story starts quickly with Alon being approached, or rather yelled at, by the American film crew that has set up camp on the island of Kisapmata as they look for someone to help act as a tour guide for them. Everyone else that they have previously to do so absolutely refuses due to the curse that inhabits the island. Alon having a sickly father to care for and being well acquainted with the island, agrees. 

"Tay was delighted when I'd told him about my new job. The money would be good. The Americans knew the risks. It's not my fault they won't listen, and it's not on me to protect them." 

Right off the bat, weird things begin to happen and Alon tries to warn this film crew to leave before someone ends up hurt or dead. I'm not spoiling anything when I say that you get told that not is what it seems on this island. Something is happening but is it for the show? Are the people who live in the surrounding areas in on the joke? Are they just trying to terrorize the Americans off the island? 

As the story progresses I enjoyed watching everyone try to make logical excuses for things, as is the par for horror in general, and ignoring the advice of someone who literally knows better. I also love that this book tackled the colonization and exploitation of countries for entertainment. When Alon first meets with the Americans, he warns them that they should not be on the island at all, they laugh and simply say that they have permission to be there since they filed the right permits. 

"The smile Goatee shoots my way is patronizing. "Kid," he says, as the sounds of digging outside resume,"we're just filming a TV show. We have permission." " 

It made me think of how murder tourism is a thing that has also given a rise in recent years with the uptick of popularity in true crime and I like that the book talked about those issues. The Americans destroy what they can to make themselves comfortable and insist that they have every right to be there. Of course, not all of them are that way but as it is with "Hollywood types" they have "the power," and even threaten Alon sometimes of firing him. 

" "Regale us with your scary stories. You do want money for your father's treatment, right? Is fishing going to be enough to support you both if we fire you?"
I look around, at the smiling faces, the amusement in their eyes. This is how Americans make threats, I think. " 

As much as we see the Americans try to reconcile trying to keep their job going, stay sane and figure out what is real or not, we also see Alon trying to understand these people and their way of life.  Everyone is on this island for various reasons and he tries to navigate around their personalities and why are there. One person he finds a liking to is an intern who he finds strange is doing the work for free as she tries to explain what an intern does. 

""They pay us in connections, in introductions to bigger names who can poach us for positions with actual salaries. I live with my folks, so I don't need to pay rent. I'm lucky. I know people who'd be better at the work than me but can't afford the job."
It is a strange thing to say, to afford a job. " 

As things get stranger and more dangerous, you see Alon clearly try to protect those that he feels don't deserve to be hurt. I don't want to say more out of fear of ruining anything. 

The story moves at a steady pace letting you get used to everything around you before pulling the rug out from underneath you. It has a couple of twists and turns, some that you may see coming, some that you might not. The only thing that I did not like about this story was the romantic subplot, it just felt a little forced to me but loved the representation it brought nonetheless. 

This is a perfect read for fans of movies like The Ritual, Apostle, and Grave Encounters. 

Special thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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The story is a solid YA haunted island story that has a surprising amount of heart in its lead character.
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Hollywood shifts its lens, zooming in the paradise island in the Philippines for a documentary series poised to uncover the secrets of a brooding local legend. The island Kisapmata is home to a cave dubbed the Godseye where a slumbering god is believed to grant gifts to those who pays instrument to the sacrifices needed for its awakening – a series of eight specific deaths. Unnerving as it is, the island has more to keep as it claimed more lives than it has to veiling the curse thicker than meets the eye.

Willing to turn every rock to score a smash hit, the documentary crew is accompanied by Alon, a young fisherfolk who lives within the island’s vicinity, to guide through the thick enigma in the island’s lore. The island irks at its trespassers, baiting them in its caverns, woods, and shoreline. The curious gets lured into quick-paced events that unearths the something they expected and didn’t. Something nefarious watches and Alon might be in on the secret.

I am no stranger to Rin Chupeco’s books, but this is huge turnaround from their usual complex magic systems in fantastical worlds in the likes of The Bone Witch trilogy and Hundred Names of Magic series. It’s my first encounter with their in the horror-mystery genre and I can say that it hit the mark for me. This is probably me with some bias being also a Filipino but Chupeco is adept at stringing elements of Philippine culture and mythology and gives breath to exciting stories out of them. It’s nice to see their take on the balete tree (god tree Infinite Tsukoyomi vibes), which is central to popular ghost stories, as well, as rural folklores on rituals and diwatas.

Although the heart of the prose is the mystery that is the Godseye, Chupeco’s characters are well-written and adds humanity to the already enigmatic fantasy. It grounds the story depicted in their character’s real-life colloquy while facing the dilemma presented by the island. I jump for joy for non-binary representation in Alon. Unlike the usual headstrong or sometimes self-doubting YA characters, there is a serene, self-assuredness in them that I admire. Even the docu-crew members, weighed by their fears, greed, and regret, have skeletons in the close to unpack. It scrutinizes human frailty, and the extent people would do to gain power. Moreso, it jabs at the effects of colonialism and the western media seen from the lens of the characters local and foreign. Apathy is never an option here as the reader will, without reluctance, root for someone’s safety or demise.

While the story is fast-paced and keeps you on edge, somewhere about two-thirds point, the dialogue felt a tinge weaker most likely due to the repetitive nature of the discourse about the Diwata. I probably wanted more elements thrown in, more red herring perhaps. I just think that the twists were straight forward and would have wanted some fresh take in that department. Nonetheless, the clues carefully plotted throughout were seamlessly wrapped up at the end.

What I appreciated most is that this brand of horror is not the jump-scare or theatrics-for-impact kind of book. Chupeco skillfully brewed elements that upshots a disturbingly eerie atmosphere. Besides the graphic description of violence and body horror, it’s the feeling that something sinister is watching you that makes it even more unnerving. I kept staring at my window, beyond trees when I was reading this. It’s one that crawls under your skin and hyper-activates your senses.

I am not sure if “enjoyed” is the right term, but it was good time reading this. If you are up for books on isolated islands that will leave you unsettled, gripped by insidious creeping vines, The Sacrifice is one that should grace your shelves.
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