The Sacrifice / Rin Chupeco / Book Review

A cursed island, a slumbering god, an ancient prophecy: Kisapmata is every Hollywood director's dream. And that's what's happening now as Alon Budhi watches--Hollywood, descending on the island Alon has always watched over. Hollywood has big plans: a documentary, a ghost hunting special revolving around the island. They want Alon to be their guide--no one else is willing to so much as set foot on the island. But Alon knows more than these foreign invaders. The curse is real, the God is present, and the ancient prophecy calls for blood, foreign or local. Alon has always protected others from the island, but not everyone is willing to listen to a dire warning--not before it's too late. 


This is a nice twist on a classic haunted-island story. Hollywood invades and pays the price--but this time, told from the perspective of the archetypical native guide. The story is a little slow, sure, but it unfolds in precisely horrifying ways. 


  • Unvoiced Narrative: Rin Chupeco takes the stock horror character of "exotic" native guide and transforms said character into the narrator instead. This tilts the expected narrative on its head, giving life and substance to a stock character--making Alon real, flesh and blood. I love that subversion. I love the Filipino rep, and I love the new ways this allows the Hollywood-invades-a-haunted-island story to unfold. 
  • Nonbinary Rep: Alon is nonbinary. They don't subscribe to either gender, and why should they? They have lived so close to this haunted island, have grown up practically on its shores, so certainly there are much bigger things for Alon to worry about. 
  • Trapped: There's something particularly anxiety-inducing about being stuck somewhere, knowing bad things are coming but being unable to escape. It's a slow sort of inevitable demise, and the tension is high. The calls for help that this crew sends out go unanswered, and readers get to watch as they slowly break down, descending into chaos. Inevitable death is looming. There's no way to prevent it--no help coming, no way out. It's classic horror, and it's classic for a reason.


  • Motivation Question: I love the insight having Alon as narrative gives to this standard horror plot, but I still felt like I was missing a lot of the motivation on Alon's part. Why would a local want to help these people? That's always the question, and that was still the question for me in this book, even given Alon's perspective to follow along. Some revelations were made clear by the end, but I wish it hadn't taken so long for me to really feel Alon's motivation. So that was a bit disappointing. 
  • Too Old: The writing style, the narrative itself, the characters--this doesn't read like a YA book. The youngest character here is eighteen, and having a teenage protagonist doesn't mean the book has to be for teenagers. This book doesn't have the same energy as YA horror, and while it wasn't bad, it just doesn't fit the demographic. Of course, I know why this book would get pushed to YA. YA has bigger margins. More risks happen in YA, and BIPOC leads in genre fiction are still, as far as publishers are concerned, a risk. So giving it a shot in YA makes sense, even if the book itself doesn't fit the market. 
  • Too Slow: Horror, like thriller, should be fairly snappy in its storytelling. That energy keeps the story terrifying. The slow unfolding here, while not entirely a bad thing, means that some of the creep factor, some of the spooky, doesn't quite translate. The story is creepy. The end result, not so much. 



Fans of Kate A. Boorman's Into the Sublime will appreciate this new book of caves and curses. Those who liked Goldy Moldavsky's Lord of the Fly Fest will love this new island-paradise-gone-wrong tale. 


Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Date: October 4, 2022
Series: N/A
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Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


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