Aspiring painter Alden Oakes is invited to join a mysterious art commune in Arkham: the New Colony. When celebrated Spanish surrealist Juan Hugo Balthazarr visits the colony, Alden and the other artists quickly fall under his charismatic spell. Balthazarr throws a string of decadent parties for Arkham’s social elite, conjuring arcane illusions which blur the boundaries between nightmare and reality. Only slowly does Alden come to suspect that Balthazarr’s mock rituals are intended to break through those walls and free what lies beyond. Alden must act, but it might already be too late to save himself, let alone Arkham.
A Note From the Publisher
“A master of the unsettling, and each twist is more grisly and unexpected than the last.”
- Publishers Weekly starred review
“Sidor is a prince of darkness, steeped in the noir tradition and not giving an inch. That said, he is also bountifully talented.”
- Kirkus Reviews
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This was a solid creeping read for an evening, and set the scene well. It captured the language and nuance of the settings time period better than most, but did have a bit of a sloppy introduction to the actual action. You have two or three actual scene setting starts before you really get into the meat of the action.
Unapologetically Lovecraftian, this novel of terrifying Cosmic Horror, hypnotism, illusion, and mind control is based on the wildly popular board game. In 1925, in Europe and Arkham, Massachusetts, strange forces are afoot. Many individuals of one mind are attempting to "Open the Gate," to call forth an other-dimensional monstrosity. The sorcerer-leader, a Surrealist painter from Spain, chooses Arkham as the locale. A tension-wrought horror novel, I was so engrossed I I devoured it in one session. There is violence but all intimacy is offstage.
I will be keeping a close eye on Arkham Horror from now on. The Last Ritual: An Arkham Horror Novel is the latest work from SA Sidor the mastermind author of The Institute for Singular Antiquities series. As a big fan of the series I knew straight away that I needed to get my hands on a copy of The Last Ritual and I was extremely fortunate to be approved for a eARC. I will note that this in no way swayed my review and I will not allow my love for Fury of from the Tomb to cloud my judgement. That being said The Last Ritual is a brilliantly eerie and well executed read. This book was instantly recognisable as being written by SA Sidor. Sidor's style shines with this book and the prose are familiar yet original so don't fret that you will not get a unique story. You certainly will be. I would like to point out that I had never heard of Arkham Horror prior to this read and I can certainly say I will be keeping an eye out for more in the future. Think 1920's detective looking into the strange goings on in a classic American setting. Arkham Horror is specifically set in Lovecraft's fictional Massachusetts town of Arkham in the 1920's. “Depends what you mean by strange. Arkham’s no stranger to strangeness, is it?” This read was incredibly enjoyable albeit slightly mind boggling at times. I often found myself in as much as a spin as our protagonist, Alden Oakes, as he makes his way around the city trying to puzzle together the odd occurrences that he happens across. This is all good however and it all adds to the mystery, placing us right in the middle of the action. “Yet, even abject terror in the face of monsters reaches a lull over time. You manage somehow to get past it. The panic fades to background terror, a jumpiness. But it’s no less a threat once it gets behind you than it was when you faced it head-on. The lingering sense of the monstrous becomes worse than its actual presence. It surrounds you, and fills you with an inescapable pressure that builds and wrecks you inside and out. It’s personal, an invisible invader who might manifest at any moment. Expectation of evil is your new sickness. The worrying eats at you like acid. You and the monster become one thing, and that feels like the dirtiest trick of them all.” Sidor's use of 1920's slang and terminology really helps build the world up around us and not for a second did I feel I like I was anywhere else but 1920's Arkham. The world building is just where it needs to be. Sidor hit the fine balance between over saturating the read with descriptions and leaving us needing more. The Last Ritual has opened up a whole new genre for me and I can't wait to explore further. I fear that a lot of TBR piles will be growing to the point of tipping if readers pick up a copy. However you will not regret it if you do so. If you are a fan of The Institute of Singular Antiquities as I am then you will love Sidor's latest novel. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was another adventure with Rom Hardy and the gang as it feels so familiar as previously stated. If you are already well established within Arkham Horror then I am sure you will enjoy this read. The Last Ritual is Book Vagabond Recommended, you will enjoy this book.
Combining the life and pluck of a Jazz Age still shadowed by the table-rapping spiritists of the Victorian Age, The Last Ritual reads like a story born of those times would, a sort of blend of Lovecraft meets the Great Gatsby. Sidor brings us into a world like but unlike our own, where things may be a dream or not, where we may be slipping into madness...or being hunted by madness. This book has all the elements that I associate with Lovecraftian fantasy/horror: including abrupt changes in pace and setting, strange insights and even more strange occurrences, demon (or alien-ish) rituals, black outs, strange visions, mysterious disappearances, dead bodies, shadowy monsters, horned Gods, and more - all against a cosmic/bigger picture backdrop. And while the plot is interesting in that strange meandering sort of dreamy/nightmarish way, the scary high stakes moment that should have been a major wow/scare moment instead sort of flattens under the weight of a more cosmic crescendo: a statement/quest to the truth of reality and art (yes it's a "look at all the strange little things, but don't miss the big picture kind of story"). Overall it's Sidor's writing and actual descriptions that really stood out to me: "Not that Minnie herself was obscene. See, she was like a piece of broken mirror. Small and shiny, and if you weren't careful she'd leave you bleeding. She reflected back places in yourself that were better left unexamined." and on the main character summing up his recent paintings: "While they were good, they lacked something almost palpable, as if the real subject had wandered away just before I started to paint. Haunted by absences. I put them away." or describing one of our Arkham-esque horrors: "The net blob hitched itself along, hauling forth its girth with maximum effort. It shambled onto the bridge. How sluggish it was, but how impressively persistent....A halo of flies buzzed around it, ignoring the cold to feast on morsels hidden in its collapsing chambers - it's honeycomb of well-aged slimes...Inside the rats tumbled round as if they were spinning on a wheel. Somehow I knew the swirling energy of their lifeforces fed and propelled this monster. The motion of their rat bodies animated its horror. If the blob were to consume me, then I would power it like the rats did." and probably my favorite line from the book: "I never want this woman angry at me, I thought. She's the kind of lady who might stab you with a pair of scissors if she figured you deserved it. Or she might die for you. It all depended." A definite read for fans of the genre, Lovecraft, Arkham Horror, or those who like an elegant writing style that is both creatively observant AND creatively expressive.
The second book in the new Arkham Horror series and another fun read! Whereas Wrath of N’kai is a non-stop action romp, The Last Ritual has many more quiet moments- there aren't as many Mythos references or monsters. It delves into the realm of artists, as we know from other Lovecraft stories that artists seem to have a special sensitivity to Mythos influences. I always enjoy returning to this familiar setting with its memorable characters. Each book in this new series by Aconyte Books is a standalone, so you can pick and choose whichever one sounds most interesting to you. If a moody, end-of-year-seasonal Mythos story is what you’re looking for, then you should check out The Last Ritual.
Thank you to NetGalley and Aconyte Books for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review. 4/5 Stars! As a fan of Lovecraft and Arkham Horror games and stories, this book did not let me down! I didn't realize this book was part of a series until after I'd finished the book, so this can be read as stand-alone, even if you have never read the series, Lovecraft, or had any interaction with Arkham Horror. This book was definitely more mystery than cosmic horror, but that didn't harm the story at all. All through the book, you will feel the sense of impending dread that comes along with Alden trying to discover exactly what was going on with the ritual in the artists' community. About Marvel Entertainment Marvel Entertainment, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, is one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, built on a proven library of more than 8,000 characters featured in a variety of media for over eighty years. Marvel utilizes its character franchises in entertainment, licensing, publishing, games, and digital media. For more information visit marvel.com. © 2020 MARVEL