This is a PSA, Don't Start a Cult: A Review of The Lost Village by Camilla Sten
Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.
Happy Spooky Season! I know, I’m late in starting the celebrations this year. I’m sorry. Know that I’ve been celebrating Spooky Season since August. I’m just starting things late on RHRML. I’m sorry that I’m so late, but let’s finally get this party started!
I want to start Spooky Season off on the perfect note. Today’s book has some horror, some phycological thriller, some Blair Witch Project meets cults. I’m talking bout The Lost Village by Camilla Sten, baby!
Full disclosure, I’m obsessed with this book. I was hooked from the first chapter. This book just does it for me. “But what’s it about?!” I hear you screaming. Well let me tell ya.
As always, a spoiler alert is in order; you’ve been warned. I also must issue a content and trigger warning. The Lost Village deals with a lot of serious topics. Readers see the beginnings of a cult and it taking over a tiny community; there is a lot to unpack there. But I want to make it known that this book deals with rape and sexual assault as well as the grooming of a teenaged girl. There are also discussions on depression and suicidal thoughts and tendencies that readers should be aware of before going in. This book is not for everyone, I get that, so if you’re jumping ship I shall see you next week. I promise next week is something lighthearted and fun. If you’re staying, then let’s get to the synopsis.
Alice Lindstedt is a documentary filmmaker, or she will be when she gets the funding for her passion project. You see, her grandmother grew up in the small town of Silvertjärn AKA the Lost Village. In 1959, the entire population of Silvertjärn vanished without a trace. Alice grew up hearing stories about this tiny village. Now as an adult she wants to discover the answers of what happened to everyone, and why the only two people left in Silvertjärn were a newborn baby and a woman who was stoned to death in the town square.
With a small film crew, consisting of the mysterious Robert, Max who funded most of the documentary thus far, Emmy who Alice has a long history with, and Tone the photographer who is keeping a “secret” from the rest of the crew, our main character journeys to Silvertjärn. The group is there for a long weekend to gather footage and photos of the ghost town. But the longer they’re there, the more things go wrong.
The crew see mysterious figures off in the distance, they feel watched all the time, they hear laughs and footsteps in some of the abandoned buildings; things are certainly going bump in the night. Tensions are high and the crew begins turning on each other. Will they make it out alive? Will they tear each other apart? Or will something or someone else do so first?
Like I said, I’m obsessed with this book. I love the premise. It has a great hook and a great mystery. I was invested right from the start. I wanted to know every single little detail about what happened to this village. And I got it in the end. I found the ending to be satisfying. I know some people call bullshit on the ending claiming it's too campy, but it works for me. In fact, this was a book that I stayed up late reading because I was so invested in the plot/mystery. Totally worth it, by the way.
If you’re someone who likes to solve the mystery before the characters, this is a great one for you. There are so many possibilities about who/what is responsible for the all mysterious stuff happening to the film crew in the present day as well as what happened to Silvertjärn’s population in the past. I had like ten different theories running around my head while reading this one. They were constantly changing and evolving.
The mystery aspect was definitely this novel’s high point. The characters on the other hand...not so much. They don’t have much personality. Now, this is a translated novel so I do not know if this is an issue with the writing in general or if some things were lost in translation. I lean towards the latter option because the atmosphere was incredible, but either way I was not fond of the characters. They came across as bland, and kinda problematic for what they do to Tone. They constantly bicker and some of their choices left me aggravated; again, I’m talking about what they do to Tone. I will not spoil what exactly happens, but please note that Tone is Othered to the extreme all because of mental illness and I hate it. Seriously, this book has some of the worst mental health representation I’ve ever seen.
I want to turn to another highlight of this book because if I keep thinking about the horrible portrayal of mental illness I’ll probably explode. The gothic atmosphere of this novel is incredible. Camilla Sten makes you feel the isolation these characters are experiencing. Silvertjärn is cold, and dark, and cut off from the rest of civilization, and anything can happen in this fog laden haunted place.
That feeling of isolation isn’t just in the present. The Lost Village follows two separate storylines. One in the present with the film crew and one in the past leading up to the village becoming a ghost town. Even when Silvertjärn was full of people the town was cut off from the rest of the world. There’s only one way in or out, and no way for help to arrive quickly. There’s just this feeling of hopelessness that hangs throughout the entirety of the novel.
Now, that feeling of isolation is very different from tension though. The Lost Village claims to be filled with suspense and tension. I’d say that’s a fair claim. This is a psychological horror novel after all. Sadly the tension in the present parts isn’t that good. It comes across as forced more often than not. It’s sad. The tension in the past parts is great. Those parts have every aspect you want in a psychological thriller. The present could have done with a bit more fine tuning.
Outside of the horrible mental health representation, this book is one I find really good. I enjoyed my time with it. It had me hooked from the start. The Lost Village is kinda campy, kinda makes you question just how easy it is to start a cult, and kinda keeps you on your toes at all times. It has some good horror and a good mystery. Definitely will reread this one.
With that I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with something much more lighthearted than this book. Thanks for hanging with me today, I’ll see ya next week.
Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.