Short Take: “Ritual,” Steve Stred

Pros: The worldbuilding seems interesting
Cons: The depravity kind of seems pointless
Rating: 3 out of 5

Steve Stred’s Ritual (Father of Lies Trilogy Book 1) comes with a warning: if you need trigger warnings at all, don’t read this book. I half agree with this–it’s depraved, contains gore, death, rape, etc. But then I know there are readers who would be fine with all of that yet would have other triggers they wouldn’t want touched. It just comes across as a boast–no snowflakes allowed!

The plot is simple. Brad, who is not a fan of either surprises or chaos, lives an extremely orderly life, spending much of his time reading his Bible. But he’s just been chosen by his cult to be the Chosen One. He has just a little time to get things in order and rehearse a bit before he will hopefully help to bring Sheol, a dark dimension, to the world.

The book reads rather like a third-person diary, following Brad through all the little quirky details of his life. We know what he eats for breakfast, the details of his job, and how much he dislikes the guy who works next to him. He has to pick up the cult’s robes from the dry cleaner and rehearse with the Father. There are little warning bells woven into the story as to what’s coming–things that Brad doesn’t see as unusual or doesn’t pick up on. It’s a neat effect.

Once things start getting bloody and rapey, though, things just kind of seem to devolve into depravity that frankly felt a bit pointless. When we get to the end of the book ( this is book one in a trilogy), I was actually much more interested in the setup for book two. I think I would have preferred to start there.

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