Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Camilla Sten has for too long of a time published her stories only in her home country, as her most recent novel clearly shows, titled The Lost Village. The story, in its essence, follows a documentary crew trying to unravel a bizarre mass disappearance which took place in the titular village decades earlier. The closer they get to the truth though, the closer danger seems to be swarming around them.
Table of contents
Camilla Sten Stages the Grand Vanishing
There are few unfortunate events which get the human imagination going like an inexplicable and traceless disappearance. It opens the door to all sorts of interpretations, from the mundane to the most convoluted ones, and acts upon our primal fear of the unknown. In The Lost Village by Camilla Sten, nine hundred people have disappeared without a trace, and one woman is determined to find out why.
The main story begins by introducing us to Alice, a filmmaker whose grandmother left the fictional town of Silvertjarn five years before nine hundred people vanished in what seemed like a split second. With her having passed away recently, Alice assembles a documentary crew to chronicle, and perhaps even solve the mystery what has engulfed her at this point.
Her crew consists of Max the financier of the project, Emmy the production assistant, Robert the technician, and Tone the photographer. The goal during their visit to the village consists of taking as many photos as possible to be used in their documentary at a later date.
However, starting from the first night when they arrive and set up camp, strange events beset them one after the other. On the following morning Tone suffers an accident while exploring the village, and from this point on the bizarre happenings start to pick up in frequency and intensity, but Alice is the last person to be dissuaded by obstacles on the road to truth.
As it happens, this truth may lay deep in the past of 1959, and the documentary crew is prepared to take the plunge into the strangest mystery they’ve ever encountered. Plenty of information remains from the olden days, ready to be uncovered and assembled to show the real picture of what actually happened to the vanished nine hundred.
The Methodical Build-Up in The Lost Village
The idea of horror in modern times has gotten quite distorted, moving further and further away from the emotion of fear as the years go by. No matter which realm of entertainment we’re talking about, horror seems to be more and more about grossing people out and using cheap jump-scares because, unfortunately, we’ve forgotten the difference between being startled/shocked and actually afraid.
The Lost Village is, as far as I can tell, an attempt to return to the earlier days of the horror genre, times when suspense and build-up where much preferable to being constantly bombarded by heart-stopping dangers. For this reason, I believe some people might have a bit of trouble getting into the book at first, but I would strongly suggest to give it a good chance if such is the case for you.
I would say roughly half the book is dedicated to setting the stage and building things up, with the documentary team spending most of their time delving into the past, pulling bits and pieces of information from it. Slowly but surely, all these little pieces do come together to form a clearer picture of what might have happened in the past, and what could be happening in the modern day.
During this first half, the strange happenings are kept on a pleasantly tight leash, a level of restraint I was happily surprised to witness in a modern horror novel. They do happen here and there, but they’re not too grave in their nature and are also used as a way of setting up the horror which is to come in the second half.
An important part of the build-up is also contained in the numerous flashback scenes to 1959, interspersed strategically throughout the story. Not only are they well-written and often loaded with foreboding and ominous information, but they help regulate the pacing of the story and prevent it from feeling monotonous.
Making Use of the Set-up
So the story spends a good deal of time building up the characters, the atmosphere, the lore of the universe, and so on and so forth, which already sets it apart from most of its peers, and in a good way I should add. However, none of this would really be worth anything if Camilla Sten didn’t actually execute on the set-up she made for herself.
Recovered, in recovery, or struggling, we are still people. Sometimes that truth can feel like a fever dream.― Camilla Sten, The Lost Village
Once the second half of The Lost Village rolls around the pace picks up quite noticeably and the hostile strangeness of the village starts to rear its head. With most of the necessary information about the past already in our pockets, all the characters have left to do is act, following the clues while trying to survive a battle against the unknown.
As a matter of fact, I would say the book starts to feel a bit more like a movie at this stage, leading us from one plot twist to the next one, with revelations upon revelations tying all the formerly inexplicable elements together. What’s more, there isn’t much violence nor foul language to be found, which to me is a Pulitzer-worthy achievement in today’s literary climate.
I will say the book isn’t perfect from start to finish, as there are a few moments where you’ll really have to suspend your disbelief to keep on rolling with the story. With this being said, I think it comes with the territory of being a horror story; there are exceedingly few works in the genre which don’t require a suspension of disbelief.
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Ultimately, the ending is about as satisfying as it could be, answering all the burning and pressing questions we’ve been accumulating up until that point. While the final resolution might be a little predictable for avid readers of the genre, it’s still a solid and effective way of wrapping everything up together.
The Final Verdict
The Lost Village by Camilla Sten is an excellent horror novel which shows the genre hasn’t completely forgotten how its rooted in the fear of the unknown. It has a slow and effective build-up, well-developed and relatable characters, and a captivating mystery with plenty of twists to spare, punctuated by a fulfilling ending.
If you’re looking for a solid horror novel which places a greater emphasis on mystery and atmosphere than cheap and ineffective “scares”, then I highly recommend you give this book a shot.
Camilla Sten is a Swedish author who mostly maintained her career within the boundaries of her country, publishing local bestsellers such as Djupgraven and Mareld. Recently, her first international novel, titled The Lost Village, took off with flying colours having sold around nineteen countries around the world.