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A mad surrealist’s art threatens to rip open the fabric of reality, in this twisted tale of eldritch horror and conspiracy, from the wildly popular world of Arkham Horror. 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 q A mad surrealist’s art threatens to rip open the fabric of reality, in this twisted tale of eldritch horror and conspiracy, from the wildly popular world of Arkham Horror. 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.


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A mad surrealist’s art threatens to rip open the fabric of reality, in this twisted tale of eldritch horror and conspiracy, from the wildly popular world of Arkham Horror. 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 q A mad surrealist’s art threatens to rip open the fabric of reality, in this twisted tale of eldritch horror and conspiracy, from the wildly popular world of Arkham Horror. 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.

30 review for The Last Ritual

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dean Osborne

    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 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri

    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 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Hansen

    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 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sylri

    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 stand 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Joel Mitchell

    I have never played any of the H. P. Lovecraft-inspired Arkham Horror cooperative games, so I have no idea how well this novel ties into the characters and mechanics. However, I have read a lot of Lovecraftian fiction and 1920’s detective fiction and, to be perfectly honest, this comes across as a watered down version of both. There are some decent moments of surrealistic horror and creeping dread, but outside of those moments the writing and plotting did not impress. The investigation is desulto I have never played any of the H. P. Lovecraft-inspired Arkham Horror cooperative games, so I have no idea how well this novel ties into the characters and mechanics. However, I have read a lot of Lovecraftian fiction and 1920’s detective fiction and, to be perfectly honest, this comes across as a watered down version of both. There are some decent moments of surrealistic horror and creeping dread, but outside of those moments the writing and plotting did not impress. The investigation is desultory, characters react to disturbing events with unbelievable sangfroid, and the only real indication that we’re in the 1920’s is the presence of prohibition and bootleggers. Even “witch-haunted Arkham” seems watered down, deriving its sinister reputation primarily from prohibition-related crime and corruption rather than the sorts of things that Lovecraft et al. wrote about. The horror set pieces saved this from being a complete waste of time, but its thirdhand nature (novel based on a game based on a writer’s works) weakened it to the point where it nearly slid into Scooby-Doo territory at times. If you’re a fan of Arkham Horror games you might want to give this a try, but if you’re just looking for Lovecraftian cosmic horror you can do much better elsewhere.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Alden Oakes, a painter from Arkham’s upper crust, left the town and the country in search of the thing his paintings lack. The thing that leaves them incomplete. That separates them from even approaching the same greatness as the works of Juan Hugo Balthazarr, the deeply charismatic darling of the surrealist set. The same surrealist he will meet again and again as strange symbols and run-ins with horrifying creatures leave him searching for answers. Alden’s search will reveal a great many of Ark Alden Oakes, a painter from Arkham’s upper crust, left the town and the country in search of the thing his paintings lack. The thing that leaves them incomplete. That separates them from even approaching the same greatness as the works of Juan Hugo Balthazarr, the deeply charismatic darling of the surrealist set. The same surrealist he will meet again and again as strange symbols and run-ins with horrifying creatures leave him searching for answers. Alden’s search will reveal a great many of Arkham’s horrors but will it be enough to prevent the destruction of the city and perhaps the world. I have fewer words about S. A. Sidor’s The Last Ritual: An Arkham Horror Novel than I would have expected. And I have something of a hard time figuring out why that is. The novel is good all told. The use of setting is interesting and shows the reader a sort of seedy underside of Arkham that feels like it has a lot of potential. I just find myself uncertain that it lives up to that potential once everything has been said. It feels as though my question of if The Last Ritual lives up to its potential could easily come from the framing of the narrative. The entirety of the story is the protagonist, Alden Oakes, recounting what happened to a reporter a year after the fact. It takes a lot of the punch out of the horror of the story, knowing for certain that nothing too bad can happen to Alden. It makes the danger feel much more distant which staunches the build of any kind of tension. The lack of danger can also have the side effect of making the various threats feel a little silly, the terrifying monster can frighten Alden and leave cryptic messages but there is little else it can do.   Of course, part of this might also tie into Alden himself. He can feel more like a character that things happen to rather than the protagonist of the story. I kept finding myself wishing we were following Nina, the firebrand love interest, or Calvin, the dock worker who clearly knows more than he lets anyone know, because they both felt like they were being more active in the mystery of what was going on than Alden. A passive protagonist is not necessarily a bad thing, the hero of a story can be someone else, but with the framing device it feels a little flat here. The combination also leaves the ending feeling more than a little unearned. This may make it sound like I did not enjoy The Last Ritual, I did. That potential I mentioned before is all over the book.  Sidor does a fantastic job of painting Alden as helpless in the face of both the actual monsters he faces as well as the sheer weight of Juan Hugo Balthazarr’s charisma. The helplessness does tie into how passive Alden can feel but it can also work towards showing just how desperately impressive the antagonist is meant to be.  The secondary characters, when they show up, are well crafted and feel quite interesting. The New Colonists are fascinating in concept and I would have loved to see more of them and the upper crust set represented by Alden’s old friends.  I feel like the sense of being thrown off kilter, of things suddenly being just that side of wrong, was well done and could have been used more. More is, ultimately, what I find myself thinking The Last Ritual could use in several places. It has a ton of potential and does a lot of things well, but it tends to feel like Sidor pulls back on things where he could have pushed them just a little further and had something fantastic.  More places where Alden is pulled along on Nina’s investigations so the reader could see more of what was happening with Balthazarr’s plans, something to build onto his personal mystery and to give the reader more space to dig into the question of how he was accomplishing everything. The Last Ritual is a good book and one that certainly leaves me planning to read more of S. A. Sidor’s work. Despite its framing device there is a lot to enjoy here, and there are several scenes that do a fantastic job of balancing tension with an almost dreamlike quality of unreality. I give it a four out of five. I received a copy of The Last Ritual for honest review through netGalley, this has not effected my review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michael Botterill

    I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book The Last Ritual by S. A Sidor, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book. So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher. I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my ju I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book The Last Ritual by S. A Sidor, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book. So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher. I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might. What is Arkham Horror Anyway that put to one side, let’s look at this book, by first looking at the game Arkham Horror which is a cooperative game, originally designed by Richard Launius, and is now in its third edition which was released in 2019. It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games, a subsidiary of Asmodee, and is set in 1926 in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each player takes on the role of an investigator, who are working to stop the Ancient Ones, eldritch horrors which lurk in the void beyond space and time. It’s a 1-6 player game and you work together to gather clues and defeat the evil of the Ancient Ones and save the world. As I said I haven’t actually played Arkham Horror but I do own its spin off Elder Sign the cooperative dice game. The Story It’s a 1920s novel as an aspiring artist in the town of Arkham as he tried to piece together the puzzle of several very odd occurrences along with his love interest a talented young writer. Like the previous novel Wrath of N'kai, which I reviewed earlier this year, it has a very rich setting, and there are subtle crossovers as characters common to the setting get a mention. But we run across bootleggers, odd job men, butlers, privileged rich kids and impoverished artists, as well as the main antagonist, a renowned Spanish surrealists who wishes to open the gate. On Goodreads I saw an excellent comment by Taylor Hanson, this book is "Lovecraft meets The Great Gatsby", and that is as good a term I can think of. The story is told retrospectively as Alden, our protagonist recites the tale to a young reporter, so there is a lot of foreshadowing to a disaster that left him disfigured and scarred. The book is much slower and quietier than Wrath oif N'kai, but its suitably unsettling, there is an almost blurring of the lines between the possible, and the impossible, between dreams and waking. The creeping dread of the story is very tangible and when finished with it after a session, I felt a discomfort in my mind. Conclusion Personally I really enjoyed the book, it was a creepy, yet enjoyable story which whilst grounded in the Cthulhu mythos, like the Wrath of N'kai did not delve into it too deeply, nor did it require me to have more than passing knowledge. Normally, I don't go for horror, and this one nicely doesn't dwell too much on gore, but its absolutely there but mostly happens off screen. The conclusion felt like it came too quickly, and I did find his efforts to find a missing person in the last couple of chapters, a little lacklustre considering what they meant to Alden. I would recommend this book, its certainly an entertaining read and does get the heart pumping.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephie | Stephiereads

    I received an earc of this book by netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I'm a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft, which is the main reason why this book and it's synopsis intrigued me so much. I love cosmic horror and the idea of a cult-like society of artists set in 1920s America, led by an enigmatic surrealist named Balthazarr sounded like a fantastic idea. The book starts out like many stories of cosmic horror. With ordinary people living their lives and the horror slowly sta I received an earc of this book by netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I'm a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft, which is the main reason why this book and it's synopsis intrigued me so much. I love cosmic horror and the idea of a cult-like society of artists set in 1920s America, led by an enigmatic surrealist named Balthazarr sounded like a fantastic idea. The book starts out like many stories of cosmic horror. With ordinary people living their lives and the horror slowly starting to creep in to the point were the protagonist and the reader alike are experiencing constant feelings of dread and unease. I'm not gonna say too much about the book because, in my opinion, with stories like that it is always better to not know too much. I found Alden to be a likable protagonist, caught in his desire to create art but also being trapped in the state of his own mediocrity. But things changed for him with his return to his home in Arkham and I have to admit that I couldn't wait for the outerwordly creatures to emerge, for a Cthulhu-like entity to make it's entrance. And I have to say, without spoiling anything, that I really liked the elements of cosmic horror in this book. They were a lot like something out of a Lovecraftian tale, something that Junji Ito could perfectly draw and Guillermo del Toro illustrate. I really enjoyed where this book was taking me. I just wish the pacing in the middle of the storry wouldn't have felt so slow for me. Maybe it was just me but in the beginning there were so many new people and locations, so many things that were keeping me interested and the middle part juft fell a little flat for me at times. There were great scenes strewn in, with great horror elements, but in between I felt a little unmotivated to keep reading. Which is also why I'm not giving it 5 stars. But then again, towards the last third the pacing kept getting better again and culminated in a grand (and great) finale. In the end I would give this book 3.5 to 4 stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cat Treadwell

    Disclaimer: I was so excited to receive this book for review! I’d seen the new Arkham Horror series as Coming Soon for most of the year, and given the popularity of Lovecraft-inspired fiction happening right now (almost as if the world’s gone mad), I was hopeful that such a dedicated selection of books from proven writers would be both true to the Mythos and also original for the 21st Century. I’m glad to report that this book hits it out of the park on both fronts. The story is narrated by famed Disclaimer: I was so excited to receive this book for review! I’d seen the new Arkham Horror series as Coming Soon for most of the year, and given the popularity of Lovecraft-inspired fiction happening right now (almost as if the world’s gone mad), I was hopeful that such a dedicated selection of books from proven writers would be both true to the Mythos and also original for the 21st Century. I’m glad to report that this book hits it out of the park on both fronts. The story is narrated by famed artist Alden Oakes, and while we are told he is revealing horrific events from his youth, he seems at first to be more of a rich old man simply reminiscing. But soon you’re (appropriately) sucked into the tale and the momentum begins to rise… We travel from the Old Ways of Europe to the newer – and stranger – happenings in Arkham itself. The town is as much a character as any of the humans, and it’s fascinating to see that while it’s comparatively forward-thinking (particularly with regard to women and people of colour), it’s built on a truly ancient foundation. It’s difficult to speak about the plot without giving anything away, but suffice to say that the tale is the best sort of rollercoaster matinee adventure. By spending time with the protagonists, we become invested and genuinely caring for their wellbeing in a way that Lovecraft never really had time for. I was also relieved that the author has far more liberal views than HP himself – no racism, sexism or xenophobia here. Initially, I felt that the book could be shorter, but I quickly realized that it’s precisely as long as it needs to be. While Alden can seem a little Wooster-like with his rank and privilege, he realizes it and tries to use it to help those other than himself. He’s a silly young man, who is forced to grow up and face the very real dangers of his home town (hopefully without pranging Father’s Rolls). The 1920s setting is both well-researched and appropriate. Prohibition is something that everyone kind of works around; the recent war was its own kind of madness. Arkham is almost an island, tangentially affected by the wider movements of America at large but also looking far beyond, to the stars and the deepest seas, where the mysteries are strangely hypnotic, even attractive. The characters are so well-drawn that I was casting them in my head (and missing Christopher Lee for one crucial baddie!). This would make a wonderful TV serial, akin to the recent ‘Lovecraft Country’. I enjoyed my time in this strange land immensely, and am looking forward very much to the next titles in the series. Absolutely recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    Sadly I really struggled with this. I wanted to love it, but didn't and could not finish it. I found it sluggish and did not find myself particularly liking or loathing any of the characters. Sadly I really struggled with this. I wanted to love it, but didn't and could not finish it. I found it sluggish and did not find myself particularly liking or loathing any of the characters.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pawprints

  12. 4 out of 5

    LeRoy Frank

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

  14. 4 out of 5

    Scott Malthouse

  15. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark J Kettlewell

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kent Woods

  18. 5 out of 5

    Arin Komins

  19. 4 out of 5

    OrlaS

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chris Burnett

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bill Martin

  25. 4 out of 5

    Simon Holland

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ness Jack

  28. 4 out of 5

    Markie Jones

  29. 5 out of 5

    Darren

  30. 4 out of 5

    JP

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