Author Rin Chupeco’s fiction has always had something of a darker tint to it. From more obvious horror stories like the Japanese ghost story The Girl From the Well and vampire tales like Silver Under Nightfall to their darkly magical The Bone Witch trilogy, these are not exactly stories for the faint of heart. And neither is Chupeco’s latest release, a disturbing story of survival and consequences called The Sacrifice that lands just in time for spooky season.
One of the best things about The Sacrifice is the way that Chupeco crafts a setting thick with tension and foreboding of both the physical and the emotional variety. From the jump scares caused by the trees that seem to move on their own and the soundless ghost figures that suddenly burst from nearby foliage, there are plenty of reasons to believe this island is haunted at best and downright dangerous at worst. Chupeco also deftly weaves various elements of Phillippine folklore and legend throughout the story, adding an uncomfortable element of realism to their spooky tale.
It’s said that if the dreamer god who sleeps beneath the island receives eight sacrifices that meet a series of specific parameters, he will bestow power and wealth on the giver. And this is, of course, part of the reason that so many people keep coming to Kisapmata, despite its dark history and uncomfortably high body count. Greed is a universal motivator throughout the ages, it appears. Horror that pokes at the uncomfortable dark underbelly of colonialism always works for me, and the use of these familiar tropes to examine the long-tale impact of the oppression of marginalized groups really works for me here.
The concept of this tale is suitably creepy and should make for a great read with a cast of varied and interesting characters. But I was expecting something as vivid and deep as The Girl From the Well which is an absolute favourite of mine. I liked the main character in this novel but the time frame didn't give him space to develop any complex relationships such as in The Girl From the Well. I also think this tale didn't have the language and descriptions needed to make me feel fully immersed in the atmosphere and setting.
All of that aside, it is not a terrible read, three stars, enough to entice other readers who may enjoy this more than I did.
I received this arc from netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for my honest review.
This was my first Rin Chupeco and I had a blast. The Sacrifice is the perfect mix of camp horror, actual graphic horror, and social commentary. The horror in this was layered well, and the horrific moments were truly horrific. I really liked how the book played with history,
The island of Kisapmata is deadly! There is a curse of death, power and rebirth. There may be treasure to be discovered. The island is lush and beautiful but the local Filipinos refuse to come to the island.
Hollywood has funded a group to come to the island to film a series of the dangers and curse of the island.
Alon, a local fishing boy does come to the island and the Crew invites him to give them info regarding the terrors of the island. Despite his warning to leave before any more lives are lost; the crew experiences danger. The see visions of people they do not wish to see and a large sinkhole opens revealing a corpse entwined in the roots of underground tree.
Lots of action and danger, evil rules the island!
Thank you to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire, and Rin Chupeco for the opportunity to read The Sacrifice in exchange for an honest review.
Kisapmata would be the perfect island getaway, if it weren't for the supposed legendary curse killing people off. Explorers, such as Cortes, a whole plane crash, and a slew of missing people leaves the island with an air of legend that may just draw in horror-lovers. That is, those who make spooky TV shows for Hollywood.
Alon, a local island resident, is tasked with being a guide for a film crew making a spooky show about the island's legends and missing people, including the myth of the eight sacrifices to awaken the Diwata, the island's vengeful god. The film crew seeks any chance at a spooky moment for the camera, but when a massive sinkhole opens up revealing a tree with a corpse therein, the spook factor becomes a bit too real.
Unrelenting, the director takes the chance to use real footage to highlight the episodes of the show he is making, but Alon knows better. After seeing what is happening to the film crew after being exposed to the corpse tree and the island's curse, Alon makes every attempt to convince them to leave before it is too late and they succumb to the curse as well.
Alon also has a cute dog, Askal, which follows him around and is quite inquisitive and protective. Alon also finds themself drawn to one of the crew members son's, Chase--who is working through a recent breakup with a psycho cheater girlfriend,--giving a very slight romantic dynamic to this novel. (Alon is non-binary, by the way).
This book is a quick read, each chapter leaving an itch for more as the island's cure does its fun throughout the story. The first-person narrative is a nice touch, as Alon is already familiar with the working of the island and its curse, so they see the reactions of others with a grain of nonchalance. The spook factor of this novel is excellent. There's just something about carving hearts out for sacrificial needs and trees that come alive and seek an unknowing victim...
An excellent young adult thriller/horror!
Thank you, NetGalley, SOURCEBOOKS Fire, Sourcebooks Fire, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.
The island of Kisapmata would be the perfect vacation destination, with its beaches, lush greenery, weather and waters...if not for the curse. The Philippines locals speak of it in hushed voices and refuse to go there, but an Hollywood film crew doesn't believe in any curse. Legend claims a Dreamer gods could grant powers in exchange of eight sacrifices and the crew wants to document any evidence it could find and they convince Alon, a local teen, to be their guide.
An island oasis turns deadly when a terrifying legend threatens to kill off visitors one by one in this haunting novel from the highly acclaimed author of The Girl from the Well and the Bone Witch trilogy.
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. As soon as they arrive a sinkhole appears, revealing a tree with a mummified corpse in its branches. Between strange visions in the crew and mysteries around them, Alon is more than certain the curse is real, but none wants to leave. Who will survive? What will the Dreamer destroy?
In this haunting horror story, inspired by East Asian folklore, Rin Chupeco, already acclaimed author of The bone witch trilogy, write a eerie and suspenseful book, perfect for anytime, but mostly if you are in a mood for a good spooky one.
Hauntingly written, eerie, intense and so intriguing and interesting, this story is pretty amazing. Not only the setting is gorgeous, but mixed with legends and curses everything is even better. The characters are well written and I truly loved Alon, the mysteries and the whole journey. Totally recommended.
A creepy and darkly atmospheric read that made me glad I had chosen to read it during the day. The island setting and the descriptions of the tree creatures were jaw-dropping and gasp worthy. This was a horror book that didn't shy away from people who had bad things getting punished in horrifying ways. I enjoyed this one, it was the perfect amount of spooky and creepy without making me utterly terrified. Great book!
If you're a fan of island that are seriously Not Okay (I see you, Lost fans), this is the horror book for you. Steeped in Filipino folklore, THE SACRIFICE is both a participant in and a critique of that classic (often highly questionable) horror plot: a bunch of white people land on a beautiful island oasis, with no respect for the local people or reverence for their customs and beliefs, and don't live to regret it.
Though more action driven than the kind of creeping dread horror that will keep you up at night, THE SACRIFICE is well written, and some of the vividly depicted horror scenes will stick with readers long after they finish reading.
And it's delightfully queer! With a nonbinary lead, a bisexual love interest, and several queer side characters.
So if all of the above is your cup of scary tea, be sure to add THE SACRIFICE to your reading list.
I really enjoyed this haunted island story, featuring white folks who never learn. Could have given it a full score if not for that cringey contrived "relationship" between the two main characters.
Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC via NetGalley for an honest review.
CWs: mild gore, death, corpses, sacrifice, mentions of infidelity, mentions of sexual assault, mentions of murder and suicide, plane crash (off-page, historical, evidence found on-page)
This was a great read for spooky season! The spooky nature of the legend of the island was crafted really well, and the author’s writing style was super readable. I didn’t want to put the book down while I was reading, and I got completely sucked in. I felt like I was on the island with the characters watching and waiting for the next creepy thing to happen.
Alon was an interesting character. Mentioning at one point that they identify more as non-binary, there are no corrections for anyone who uses he/him pronouns towards them. Alon’s connection with the island was really intriguing, and I liked the relationship between Alon and Chase that formed throughout the story. I liked that even while this scary and horrifying stuff was beginning to happen, there was some lightness with Chase’s friends encouraging him to talk to and flirt with Alon. Alon and Chase were the innocents among the guilty members of the Hollywood crew on the island with them.
The idea of a Hollywood ghost adventure type show was cool, and I thought the author did a good job of creating an atmosphere for the island that was spooky and also potentially manufactured. This was just a really interesting read. It was easy to get lost in, and there were so many exciting moments. The mystery of the Diwata and the island was captivating and the characters helped bring everything to life.
The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco was everything that I could have hoped for. It is chock full of horror, gruesome death scenes, evil in a multitude of forms, and much more. All of these are attributes that I expect from a Chupeco novel.
The Sacrifice is written around one of my newly discovered favorite tropes - filming a television show/documentary when everything starts to go horribly wrong. Beware the Dreamer god who sleeps because once they wake nothing will be the same and not everyone will make it out alive. Alon, our main character, plays the island guide and tries to warn the crew of their impending doom, but a variety of disasters stands in between their escape from the island.
I think one of my favorite aspects of this book is the diversity of culture and mythology that Chupeco gives us as readers. It felt both familiar and so uniquely written that I was lost in the world of the island. Additionally, the fun historical context that was added gave it a little something extra that I found myself drawn too as well. I think that this book is fast-paced and has something to offer readers of any age. Check this book out today! You won't regret it.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!