Book Review: Island Nightmares

The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco

Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

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, 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…

Confession:

First I want to point out how fabulously that cover sets the tone for this book. Totally creepy plant like hands covering a face in a menacing way totally captures this book in a nutshell. I will certainly stop and think about this book whenever I enter a jungle like setting and to keep an eye out for moving plants.

The island setting for this story was what made it so scary. There are these plants and trees that were ominous and many of the characters often felt like they were being watched. The backstory of the curse of the island is also very interesting and one that ties into the history of colonialism in the area.

I really enjoyed our narrator, Alon. He was such a great narrator to tell this tale. I really liked that he never really bothered to learn many of the hollywood people’s names, they just weren’t important to him as individuals, just people who didn’t know what they were doing or getting themselves into. Even though he continues to give them warnings and advice to leave, they just don’t listen to him. I also loved his dog, Askal, who was super sweet, but could hold his own against anything that attacked Alon or anyone he cared about. Having the story told through a first person narrative was also well done, and made the story all the more scary.

There are lots of other characters, but this certainly is not a character driven story, it is definitely a story about the island, which was almost a character in itself. Rin Chupeco does such a good job of writing how spooky this island is, and how it feels about these people on it. Almost from the beginning of the book, you have this huge feeling that the island is watching everything that is going on. The Hollywood people for the most part were clueless and quite rude to underestimate the island and not to listen to Alon. They were also for the most part condescending to him and to the curse. But they soon learn the errors of their ways. And although you often think that island is the villain, you come to realize that it just might not be, and not everything is as it seems.

The plot is everything in this story. I can’t reveal to much without ruining it with spoilers, this is one that you want to go into not knowing much. It will keep you guessing as to what is really going on until the end. There were some pacing issues, which made it hard to keep engaged in the story at times, especially in the middle. I also had trouble keeping track of some of the characters. Mostly because Alon refers to them by what they are wearing or some other feature, but they call each other by name which was confusing. But that ended up not really being important, just a bit confusing trying to keep back stories straight. The ending, while not entirely unexpected felt a little underdone and rushed, but otherwise was a good one.

Overall I did enjoy this book. It was a well done concept and as always the author does a fabulous job of weaving other cultures folktales and stories into the narrative. If you like scary stories with a bit of mythology, history and some interesting characters than this is one that you might want to add to your list.

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