The Sacrifice Box is the second book by Martin Stewart. I loved his first book Riverkeep, the review of which you can read here, so I was very keen to get my dirty mitts on this one! I went along to the book launch in Glasgow, heard Martin speak about the writing process and read from the first chapter, annnd I got my book signed ooh. It was nice to finally meet Martin (he warned me that this one is very different from Riverkeep!) and join in the excitement of The Sacrifice Box.
The Sacrifice Box is set on a small British island in the early to mid '80s. We follow clever teenage boy Sep, who longs to go to boarding school on the main land and leave behind his lonely friendless island life. He is no longer friends with the gang from the halcyon preteen summer of '82; popular guy Mack, dimwitted Arkle, farmer's daughter Lamb, and bully's target Hadley. The gang are brought back together after the offerings they made to a mysterious stone box deep in the woods that summer seem to be coming back to haunt them, along with a pair of scary crows.
This book draws on nostalgia for all things analogue- there are plenty of mixtape cassettes- and teenage horror classics- there is a good portion of biking around through forests. It has been compared to E.T. and The Goonies and to more recent 80s nostalgia horror adventures It and Stranger Things. The Sacrifice Box definitely stands up to these comparisons, delivering a suspenseful, gore-filled, scary teenage gang horror adventure. It reminded me of Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus too.
Martin Stewart's writing is so vivid in its description that you find yourself right there in the stuffy classroom with Sep feeling the tension gather, or winding along the path deep into the forest with the gang ready for a zombie animal to jump out at you at any moment. The cast of characters are just as vivid and fleshed out, and I rooted for them to make it through the night as a gang without getting said flesh viciously mauled by zombie animals or leaving their powerful friendship behind again.
I really enjoyed this one and I am intrigued to see where Martin takes his writing next!
A few pics from the Glasgow book launch at the Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street: