This...this...good gods, how can I possibly put this book's awesomeness into words? It is going to the very top of my favourites pile FOREVER.
Let's start simple: the plot. Which is not really simple at all. There are two plotlines within this book - one, told by Mara the Huntress, an immortal slayer of evil gods, is quite simply Mara telling her own story to a magician she happens to have met. As an immortal slayer of evil gods, that story is a long, complex, incredible one - even if it often involves horrible horrors and unspeakable cruelty, on the parts of the evil monsters she is sworn to kill. In the course of her life she has met many creatures and become involved with many stories - if you're a student of mythology like myself, and even if you aren't, you'll probably recognise many of the stories she becomes involved with. Noah and his Ark, Atlantis, the Amazon warrior women - all of them and more are here, in a recognisable form but still utterly different from the myths and legends we know today. If you ask me, this is one of Kaveney's special bits of genius, because it makes the stories far more real: you can see how the 'grain of truth' evolved into the myth we know, and I loved it to pieces every time I caught a reference.
The second plotline is that of Emma, a young woman living in 90s London who becomes involved with the supernatural world when a monster eats her best friend. This is the only time the two plotlines really cross, because Mara gets involved for a minute or two - but then she's off again, leaving Emma, and her friend Caroline (now a ghost, and Emma's lover) to start policing the supernatural world at the behest of Caroline's nameless 'employer'.
Both Mara and Emma end up saving the world a lot.
But to be honest, that really doesn't give you any idea of Rituals' complete and utter genius. Sure, there's the retelling of all the myths (which I adored SO MUCH). There's the host of LGBTQ characters, including chaos magicians in drag and a vampire princess who is simply adorable with her 'baby fangs'. And there's Emma's snarky sarcasm, as she ruthlessly says what we've all been thinking for years and mocks the elves and vampires she comes across mercilessly. (Don't worry though. This is NOT a book about elves and vampires, or a book for their fans. Kaveney parodies them deliberately, and it's utterly hilarious and wonderful). But there's also Kaveney's incredible use of language, description, and sheer original BRILLIANCE that has me down on my knees BEGGING for the sequel.
Please please PLEASE, Kaveney - don't keep me waiting too long for book 2!