Horror lovers will consume this mature, hearts-ripped-out, cursed-island thriller with relish. You can't enter a creepy cave with a sacrificial altar at the beginning of any story and not use the altar. Readers know people died there and they will die there again, we just don't know when the carnage will happen and under what disturbing circumstances. Who will meet their untimely end is easier to guess, as the crueler characters in The Sacrifice -- Hollywood types, of course -- begin arriving on the island. And "types" is the right way to describe these men. They fit a stereotypical mold of greedy, cynical, soulless producers and stars. This veers toward formulaic, yes, but the author names their worst transgressions as their backstories emerge: These are men who have hurt or exploited women. The TV star, Hemslock, was brought down by the #MeToo Movement and looking for a way back into the limelight. He was rightly sacrificed in the public eye but somehow survived and is determined to be a success again, a quality modern twist to an old tale of desperation that leads to madness. We know to keep a close eye on him.
And we're also keeping a close eye on Alon, the mysterious main character (who's nonbinary but given he/him pronouns). He's a local who knows more about the island and the curse than he lets on. He's there to protect the innocent and appease the half-asleep god that's messing with everyone else. The torment comes in screams and moving corpses and, unique to the Philippines, balete trees. The fascinating trees strangle with their roots and mimic the known dead with their human forms. Fear these trees. The anger is manifest in trees, in mother nature, at men who are cruel to women, and yet it's a vengeful god at work instead of a goddess. Hmm… But that's reading pretty far into the psychology of a horror story. In the end we're still headed toward that altar, headed toward an exciting showdown. And the showdown does deliver a thrilling, uh, heartrending finish.