Banquet for the Damned
Banquet for the Damned begins with two friends from the English City of Birmingham leaving their home to travel north to St Andrews, home to the oldest university in Scotland. Although the town seems quiet and peaceful to the untrained eye, a Lecturer and two of his charges are in the practice of dragging up a gruesome past and deadly evil that seeks to destroy St Andrews and all who reside there.
A once in a lifetime opportunity arises for musician Dante when his idol and author of Banquet for the Damned, Eliot Coldwell, are in correspondence and Coldwell offers Dante the chance to come to Scotland where he once lectured and help in his research for his second book. Along with his friend Tom, Dante jumps at the chance and heads towards St Andrews but as soon as they arrive it would seem St Andrews will not be the idyllic break from their lives in Birmingham they thought it would be. As strange things begin to happen from their very first day when a dismembered arm is washed up on the beach Dante and Tom already seem to regret leaving the Rock scene in their hometown.
Along with the mystery arm on the beach there seems to be an outbreak of ni
ghtmares among the students of St Andrews. Although they may only be nightmares to most, the people having them think they are far too real to be merely nightmares when they begin to give up sleep at fear of sleep paralysis brought on by the strange shadow like creature that watches them at night making them fear the night. It appears at first that only those who attended a Paranormal Society set up by Eliot Coldwell are being taken over by the nightmares until Dante also starts experiencing the horrors of dreams after meeting the strikingly beautiful Beth, the student and apparent partner of Coldwell.
With the help of Hart Miller, the effected students attempt to fight off the nightmares but just after their interviews with the Anthropologist, who specialises in night terrors, the students begin to die in the most grotesque and disturbing ways but no evidence of the death can be found upon investigation.
With Coldwell’s cold and distant personality he seems like the old folk you may hear about that can’t let go of the past and start spewing rambling stories of long ago. Infused with alcohol this once great author that Dante admires so, seems to be a sell out with no real ambition to start a new manuscript but instead lives in the past where he made a great mistake. Letting the evil that lurks underneath the old streets of St Andrews free with the help of Beth and Ben, the two students he saw as having a second sight for the ancient sinister familiars.
Convincing a seemingly naive Dante to come and be his research assistant Coldwell brings another unwitting victim to jaws of the familiar. But is it really Coldwell who lured him to Scotland? Though Dante may be from the boisterous world of rock he seems to be in touch with his emotions and afraid of most things if he doesn’t have his misogynistic best friend holding his hand. While Tom is more bothered about a quick hook-up, Dante appears to be a fair deeper character with plenty of development ahead of him throughout the book, especially when Tom is taken by the people who control the familiar and Dante is forced to face his fears in hope of finding his friend alive, but will he?
It later transpires that Coldwell is not the manic villain he is portrayed to be at the start of the book but is in fact Beth who has let the familiar loose on St Andrews to kill and feast. The young student at first seems like a loner with a passion for the debauched but her depraved manner becomes all too real when she sets the creature upon Dante whilst laughing manically into the night as he battered and bruised. She seems to even terrorise the people who would seek to threaten her work in the occult, including Hart Miller. Ringing his phone and saying nothing, waiting outside his house in the shadow of the night and turning his flat over in an attempt to get rid of all evidence of the occult happenings in the town gives Beth a menacing personality while making the alcoholic Miller become more scared of his own shadow and shrouding him in his own self-doubt.
Even the minor characters have substance. With the all too snobbish attitude of the Proctor Harry who refused to believe his own eyes, and his brother, the Hebdomidar Arthur, who lusts after his secretary while wanting to believe the creature Coldwell brought to life is not real. Arthur’s secretary, Marcia, appears to be the average working women of the time, willing to take part in the playful flirting between her and her boss but also delights in the thrill of painting naked with the materials left behind after the familiar makes a meal of it’s victims.
Using what seem to be simple characters and making them more complex as the book goes on, Adam Nevill makes you sympathise for the most depraved of his characters while making you hate them for their crimes. The scenic setting turning grim as the winter approaches gives the entire story an eerie atmosphere and the perfect setting for an ancient evil to go hunting in. Playing on the ideas of occult practice in the Western world while informing you of other such practices around the world and the terrifying phenomenon of sleep paralysis, the story has a far too real horror to it.
Making for a nerve-wracking read and making your scared to turn your light off in case the shadows start to move up your wall while you attempt to sleep, Banquet for the Damned is a great novel and a chilling read that may just disturb your sleeping pattern or freeze you to the bed in the middle of the night.
While I personally prefer the gorier of horror which this occasionally lacks, it is still a thrilling read that gave me goosebumps as I read at night. The occult knowledge, disturbing plot and well thought out character made this horror a brilliant read that I loved to the very last page.
Awarded: 4 out of 5 Stars