Craig Stewart’s Follow Him is a novel where the reader feels a constant sense of impending doom from the first page until the last. It contains all the beats you’d expect from a cult horror novel. Supernatural entities. Groupthink. Strange and interesting dogma. The story starts with Jacob experiencing a spiritual moment with The Great Collector, the head honcho of The Shared Heart. He is flying, soaring, and then sees the god of the cult in his vision. He’s changed forever afterward and knows that there is a very important role he is set to play in the future. The story changes over from Jacob’s POV to Nina’s, Jacob’s ex-fiance, and her plan to kidnap Jacob back from The Shared Heart. With the help of her brother, Nina’s plan is successful and they bring Jacob back to the home which they shared before Jacob abandoned his previous life. From this moment onward, it’s a battle of wills. Jacob’s beliefs in the cult vs. Nina’s attempts to break through the brainwashing. Of course, it’s not a simple task. Nosy neighbors. Dreams of a version of Jacob which wants to hurt Nina. The cult wants Jacob back as well. All these forces collide as time ticks down until it’s time for the Harvest. Saying anymore would be adding spoilers.
While there are many terrifying moments of the supernatural, the true horror comes from the people involved with the Shared Heart and the main characters themselves. The followers of the Shared Heart are all broken and flawed people who are slowly erased and call themselves Dregs. They no longer identify with their old lives full of pain and sorrow. The Shared Heart provides answers and eases the pain of their members which makes it oddly appealing if you are susceptible.
This novel is a slow, deliberate burn that works to its benefit as I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next. The dynamic between Jacob and Nina is the core of the novel. Despite becoming a Dreg, there is still something there for Jacob when it comes to Nina. On the other hand, Nina kidnapped Jacob. It was against his will as he never asked to be stolen away from the commune. It leads to questions about how far you would go for someone you love, even against their wishes. Adding in all the supernatural elements, the story slowly takes you from being skeptical to accepting there is something to the Shared Heart.
Overall, Follow Him delivers exactly on everything it promises. There’s no question this novel delivers on the horror. There are scenes of extreme violence, sexual encounters, and supernatural entities. Yet, it isn’t simply for the sake of grossing out the reader or to try to be edgy. Not at all. It’s all wrapped up in an excellent story which addresses the complexities of losing someone you love, the feelings of anger toward the person, the feelings of guilt and self-blame, and how people handle their grief. For me, the incredibly scary parts aren’t the ones involving the Beast or the cult. The scary part is imagining myself sitting across from the person I love and realizing that it isn’t them anymore. The shell is the same yet on the inside its only remnants.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.