Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Shiverton Hall Review

The Eulogy (From the Publisher): Arthur Bannister has been unexpectedly accepted into Shiverton Hall, which, as it turns out, is an incredibly spooky school, full of surprises. And it is just as well that Shiverton Hall has made its offer, because Arthur had a horrible time at his previous school, and was desperate to leave. Timely indeed . . .

But Arthur has no time to worry about the strange coincidence. He is too busy trying to make head or tail of Shiverton Hall, dogged as it is by tales of curses and bad fortune. At least there are a few friendly faces: George, who shows him around; also Penny and Jake. But not all the faces are friendly. There are the bullying Forge triplets for starters. And then there is the acid tongue of the headmistress, Professor Long-Pitt, who seems to go out of her way to make Arthur's life a misery.Luckily Arthur has his new friends to cheer him up. Although there are some friends that you don't want to have at all, as Arthur is soon to find out.

The Epitaph (In a Nutshell): A spooky boarding school/haunted house story for strong middle readers (11+).

Dearly Departed,

We are gathered here today to discuss Shiverton Hall, by Emerald Fennell. The whole time I was reading it, I couldn’t get the Harry Potter comparison out of my head. I always find it a bit lazy when people compare a book to Harry Potter, especially when it’s just a book about magic, but the boarding school vibe and circle of misfit friends really made it so the similarity just stuck with me. Not that this is at all a bad thing, because I like to think of Shiverton Hall as Harry Potter... with ghosts (I mean scary ghosts).

So, we have a case of the old ‘boy is invited to scary school, boy starts experiencing odd phenomena’. It’s not just ghosts, though – another kind of paranormal activity presents itself, which I won’t spoil here. While Arthur’s story was solid enough, it was the backstory of Shiverton Hall itself which really drew me in, and I’d have loved to hear more about it. Every now and then we’re treated to the story of a previous tenant, and how they met their grisly end. Some of these are quite chilling, and I really loved them, particularly the story with the water fountain (you’ll know it when you get to it).

This is Fennell’s debut novel, and it’s a strong one. I can’t wait to see if this will develop into a longer series, and where it will go.

For Readers: As mentioned, this is for Harry Potter fans who want something a little spookier. It’s for younger readers around 11 who are strong readers – the language and characters are for slightly older readers, though I feel like the story is perfect for this age group.

For Writers: I really recommend this for anybody wanting to write scary short stories. The background chapters managed to capture my interest perfectly as stand-alone stories and left me wanting more.

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