Banquet for the Damned by Adam Nevill

Banquet for the Damned

Banquet for the Damned
by Adam Nevill


544 Pages

Published by Macmillan (first published in 2004)

Purchase from | Booktopia | Fishpond AU*Book Depository | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK |

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My rating: ⭐ ⭐

Very few believed that Professor Coldwell could in fact commune with the spirits, but now, something has come forth from the darkness in Scotland’s oldest university town. It’s causing nightmares, night terrors, and sleep paralysis, tormenting those unlucky enough to be chosen, those that end up disappearing. What chance do a flailing musician and an avid explorer have when this old evil and it’s cult of blind devotees sets it’s sights on them? Will they be able to survive where so many have perished?

I was keen to check this book out. I had just finished No One Gets Out Alive and I was suffering from a bit of a book hangover, I had no idea what I was going to read next. I have a thing for books and stories surrounding cults, I have no idea why, I just do. So when I was reading through Nevill’s catalogue of books, this one jumped out at me. I knew I wanted another horror story and I needed something visceral, along the same vein as NOGOA. I have such a strong love/hate with Nevill’s works. He’s really one of those authors that you just don’t know what you’re going to get, and honestly, I love that about his work. It makes it so much more interesting because his stories can go either way, so I feel that it’s a bit of an experience in itself – reading through his catalogue of works. Unfortunately this one did fall pretty flat for me though. I also discovered while reading this one, that I believe this was his maiden voyage, his first book, so that was pretty exciting too.

This story follows a couple of different characters, we have the two wanna be rockstars who just want to make something of their lives. They’re excited to be leaving their home town and have no intentions of coming back, at least, not empty handed anyway. Then we have the guy who has been travelling the globe, observing occult practices and rituals from native peoples all across the world, learning about their beliefs and their folklore. These are the two main storylines, and there’s a few chapters that follow other side characters thrown in. I really enjoyed the beginning of the story, following these two best friends who have been through a lot together and who just want to make something of themselves, which leads us to their connection to the Professor. One of the guys is a huge fan of Banquet for the Damned, a book that this Professor wrote decades ago, and they’re heading to Scotland to help him write his next book, and to create a soundtrack to go along with it. I already knew from the beginning how things were likely to turn out, and even though it was pretty easy to see the foreshadowing, it didn’t detract from HOW things went down. I really enjoyed the character of the researcher/explorer too, and I kinda wish that maybe the book followed him more, or even if we had a story based around his travels, his research just sounded so interesting and I really wanted there to be a bit more of a focus on it. I did find that the story chopped and changed between characters and it was almost like there was just too much going on a lot of the time. The plotline that followed the researcher was brought in, we cruised with him for a bit, then he kind of just dropped off the face of the story until his plot driving was needed again which I found to be a little disappointing.

The idea of the story was fantastic and very creepy. There were definitely creep factor moments happening, and even in this early work, Nevill does a fantastic job of really setting a strong atmosphere of oppression and isolation that I’ve come to find in the other books of his that I’ve read. He does such a great job of really dropping you into the characters shoes and making you feel what they feel. The desolation, desperation and downright terror is so tangible in all of his books and I’m here for it. I find that Nevill doesn’t rely heavily on shock value, everything that happens in his books has a purpose and I absolutely love that about them. I did find that this story just had so much going on, it was almost like three books mashed into one, and even though the plot points and stories did overlap and it all came together in the end, it just felt like way too much. Most of the book it felt like I was slogging uphill in quick sand just trying to get through it, the pacing was a pretty big problem for me. And while I don’t think much could have really been left out, as said above, everything has a purpose, I just think this one needed to be polished a bit more in order to really shine like it had the potential to.

Nevill’s creatures are second to none that I’ve read. He really has a way of injecting horror into the reader with the nightmare creatures that he creates in his stories and I feel that this is a real testament to his ability as a writer. It’s so hard to be able to make a reader feel true horror, to create a creature that elicits the feeling of complete hopelessness and overpowering terror is a work of a master and even in this early story, he proves that he’s just THAT good at it. The cult in this one wasn’t really a huge forefront of the story, at least, not that I noticed, so that let me down a little, but overall I feel like he did a great job with the characters and the monster. I just feel like the story really never got going until virtually the end, and then it was all over. While the slow climb worked well for NOGOA, I feel like it let the story down here. I’m not going to lie, I still think about this book from time to time since finishing it. And I still wish I knew what truly happened to a certain character, we’re left hanging, given a couple of clues, but that is a disappearance that’s going to stick in my head for some time, and the pure despair that was felt at their disappearance, I felt that in my soul.

All in all, I feel like this had a great premise and had potential to be absolutely amazing, however it fell a bit short for me I’m afraid. The characters were well written and I really empathised with them all, Nevill is great at really endearing his characters to the reader – good and bad. He is a master at the creatures he brings to life and I will be thinking about this one for a while, I’m sure. If super slow burn horror is your thing, give this one a go. It was a bad story, just not what I was hoping that it would be, and that’s okay, not everyone is going to love everything, and I’m still planning to read the rest of his works.

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