We all live in Hyde River. We all have our own dragon.
I’m finishing up my Peretti project with this one; there’s a substantial amount of stuff I haven’t gotten to, but I’m ready for a break. Just by chance really, I end on a very high note. In The Oath, a nature photographer is viciously killed and half eaten by a wild animal high in the wooded mountains; his brother journeys to the area to investigate and he finds himself drawn into the intrigues, secrets and violence of the tiny town of Hyde River. This is one of Peretti’s least preachy books. It’s very much a story about evil and the corrupting power of sin, but it’s all allegorical and, while there are a couple of religious supporting characters, none of the three main characters are Christians, a first for Peretti. It’s a very simple story really, about a town that made a deal with the devil and now finds itself haunted and hunted by an evil force, and it’s told in a more stripped down prose style than usual with Peretti. He may, in fact, have stripped the prose down to try to keep it to a manageable length; it’s about six-hundred pages, as it is. But, man, it moves like a forest fire and it’s really visceral and impactful. The character work is good, though a few of the supporting characters are thinly sketched. The villain of the piece is well-written and more complex than he at first appears. The allegorical elements of the book are gripping and memorable; the more a person gives into his or her basest instincts, the worse a wound over their heart becomes. As judgment nears, it oozes a gruesome black slime. I remembered some of those scenes vividly, despite me first reading this book nigh onto twenty years ago now. It’s kind of a dead heat for Peretti’s best with This Present Darkness. The prose in This Present Darkness and the labyrinthine plot really elevate it a lot and help the characters come more to life; but for sheer punchy genre thrills, this one has the edge in intensity and horror. Both great; I don’t really want to pick one as better than the other. But either way, The Oath is a thrilling, brilliant genre novel. 4 stars.
tl;dr – gripping genre thriller has intensity and horror to spare; less preachy than Peretti’s usual stuff, it’s still a compelling story of good vs. evil and one of his very best works. 4 stars.