The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart
Release date: 11th January 2018
Buy it here
So, yes… this is an ARC and I don’t remember where I got it from. I’d love to say that this is something rather spooky and that it’s just *found* its way onto my reading pile. However, I received 4 ARCS from 3 sources in 1 week, and I can’t remember if this was in my twitter giveaway or my subscription box.
An atmospheric, chilling page turner from rising star Martin Stewart, reminiscent of Stand by Me and Stranger Things.
Sep, Arkle, Mack, Lamb and Hadley: five friends thrown together one hot, sultry summer. When they discover an ancient stone box hidden in the forest, they decide to each make a sacrifice: something special to them, committed to the box for ever. And they make a pact: they will never return to the box at night; they’ll never visit it alone; and they’ll never take back their offerings.
Four years later, the gang have drifted apart. Then a series of strange and terrifying events take place, and Sep and his friends understand that one of them has broken the pact.
As their sacrifices haunt them with increased violence and hunger, they realise that they are not the first children to have found the box in their town’s history. And ultimately, the box may want the greatest sacrifice of all: one of them.
I love all of the characters; each one was a unique and definable identity within the group. Something that must be hard to achieve when you have such a large ensemble.
Sep is my favourite; he is relatable and the primary focus of the story despite its third person narrative. His development and sacrifices are monumental to the plot and endears him to me just as a young Wil Wheaton once did in Stand By Me.
Arckle reminds me of Corey Feldmen in pretty much every filmic incarnation he’s had. I love the humour, and cursing, he brings to the group.
Okay, so I’m making reference to Stand By Me, but it’s so much more than that. The group represent the best of all teen ensemble movies; the Goonies, The ‘Burbs, IT and the modern day equivalent, Stranger Things. If it ain’t broke, why fix it, right? Except Stewart does fix it; we have a much more gender equal group and, not only that, they are characterised by their stereotypes. Both Hadley and Lamb are welcome editions that are not prom queens or cheerleaders.
A class horror plot, perfect for a night in when the air is crisp. With the supernatural element to set up the main part of the plot, you will feel a very creepy vibe from the very start.
The exploration of school friendships and how people drift is a refreshing change to many school based novels.
The action speeds to a crescendo in time for the final act of the book; well written and engaging. The whole book is resolved neatly and quite beautifully; the group going their separate ways while being closer than ever.
While the writing is engaging, I found the lack of establishing a location a little distracting. You see, in part it reads like a charming, sleepy, American town. However, there are also nods to British culture. It’s described as an island of the mainland, so I considered Scotland, Isle of Man and other coastal areas, but nothing really fit.
I even paused to google the named location in the book, but I wasn’t successful in confirming a location. It’s not something destructive to the plot and I once I reconciled myself with the idea that I was free to establish it as a perfect blend of UK and US I really quite enjoyed the location. (Turns out, all you really need to do is find the author on Twitter… that might give you a good indication it’s set on a island off the coast of Scotland. I’m so reading this book again come Halloween so I can read it as it was, i’m sure intended, with the characters having beautiful Scottish accents)
The use of third person was a strange novelty for me. I’ve been finding that most YA books lean towards first person narration. I don’t remember growing up there being so much first person, or a certainly a lack of third, but here I am having to get used to a form of writing that I was once comfortable with.
Obviously, this makes the writer a little omniscient; and that, I really like. It gave Stewart the freedom to travel in time and expand beyond Sep’s point of view.