The Cult Called Freedom House by Stephanie Evelyn
The Cult Called Freedom House is a debut novel from author Stephanie Evelyn. The story itself centers around a teenager named Samantha as she joins a Cult that calls themselves Freedom House. The cult’s leader, Cyrus, fancies himself a god on earth and has convinced his followers to believe in only him. There is a darkness coming, and only Cyrus can save them and only if they do as he commands. As Samantha progresses from initiate to full member, we learn more about the inner workings of the cult and its members. Through Samantha’s eyes, we sink deeper and deeper into the world that Cyrus has created on this little patch of land. It appears, from the outside, to be idyllic, and one can see what the initial appeal of Freedom House would be to someone like Samantha, someone that feels the world has abandoned her. Cyrus promises love, acceptance, belonging, and freedom, none of which are available to Samantha in the outside world. She wants Freedom House, and Freedom House wants her.
We also meet detective Sophia Rey, someone with some previous experience with cults. Sophia begins to investigate Samantha’s disappearance and traces her to Freedom House. Detective Rey decides to go undercover and join Freedom House to confirm Samantha’s location; gain intel on Cyrus and Freedom House; and, if possible, help Samantha escape.
The book is a wonderful debut from an author that I will be keeping my eye on. The characters are well developed and relatable; we understand their motivations even when their decision is objectively...not ideal. As far as the horror goes, Evelyn delivers with disgusting aplomb. There are several scenes in this book that are quite disturbing and disgusting, but there is one particular scene that legitimately horrified me. Look at me when I say this; HORRIFIED ME. I have read over 100 horror books this year, and this, I think, is the first scene that made me physically retch.
My only complaint about this book is that it feels like part of a larger work. The cover promises that there will be more from Sophia Rey, and I’m here for it. However, I would have preferred that there was a more concrete resolution to this chapter of her adventures. I’ll be first in line for part two!
Matt is a middle school math teacher. He's originally from Kentucky but currently lives in Arkansas with his beautiful wife and 2-year-old son. In addition to reading dark fiction, he also enjoys board games and Disney World.