Morning horror-lovers! Today I have a particularly creepy and fun read for you. I’m pretty excited to be bringing it to you, because this second installment in the Shiverton Hall series by (the intriguingly named) Emerald Fennell has cemented the series as one of my new favourites. Today I will present to you book two in the series, subtitled The Creeper. I stumbled upon this series a few months back and was immediately drawn into the thrillingly chilling exploits of Arthur Bannister and his friends at the boarding school Shiverton Hall. Obviously then, when this one popped up on Netgalley, it was a no-brainer to request it – and I’m so happy I was approved because it is possibly even better than the first book and ensured that my heebies were thoroughly jeebied!
For those unfamiliar with the series, I’ll give you a little overview before jumping into reviewing this new installment. In Shiverton Hall, we meet Arthur Bannister, a young lad who experienced some trouble at his previous school and finds himself the recipient of a mysterious scholarship to the (slightly run down) boarding school, Shiverton Hall. When an ex-pupil bursts into the principal’s welcome address, screaming at the students to beware their imaginary friends, Arthur begins to realise that Shiverton Hall is not all midnight feasts and play up, play up and play the game. As a number of students begin to succumb to some strange behaviour, Arthur, along with his friends, ghost-story loving George and voice of reason Penny, attempt to figure out the mystery of the imaginary friends before anyone else is subjected to some supernatural and not-so-friendly behaviour.
You can read my (5 star!) review of the first book at Goodreads, here.
In book two, Arthur is all set to return to Shiverton Hall armed with some new knowledge about the hall itself and how he fits into it. But before he leaves, Arthur is accosted by a horribly burned man in a hood who warns him not to return to school. Arthur, though shaken, ignores the warning and is soon reunited with George, Penny, Jake, Xanthe and (unfortunately) the Forge triplets. With an eccentric new art teacher and compulsory Wednesday afternoon activities assigned by principal Long-Pitt, Arthur has plenty on his plate without having to think about crazy warnings from creepy strangers. After a few lessons with Mr Cornwall however, the students uncover the legend of the Creeper – a mysterious painted figure, whose absence from his painting usually indicates that a child is about to go missing. The story sounds easy to discount – except when you consider that a young boy has recently gone missing from Grimstone without trace. Through his Wednesday afternoon visits to an elderly lady in Grimstone, Arthur finds out more about the strange and violent history of the town and Shiverton Hall. On investigating the missing boy himself, Arthur also finds out about an old book that may have played a part in the disappearance. With danger closing in all around, and more encounters with the burned man, it looks like Arthur’s second year at Shiverton Hall will be just as eventful as his first!
Read it if:
* you’ve ever thought that returning to school for another year might be a bad idea (with or without assistance from a horribly burned stranger)
* you (like me), can’t go past a book that has stories within stories…particularly if the stories within are even scarier than the story without
* you believe that a psychic medium must be real if he goes by the name Alan
Right, so as I mentioned, I really like this series and I will be buying the first two very soon to be placed reverently on my “special” shelf, so clearly I will be singing its praises in this review. Allow me to get a few little niggles out of the way first. The main problem I had with the book was the fact that this installment seemed to have a number of similarities to the second book of the Harry Potter series. There’s the warning to the main character not to return to school, there’s a sinister book involved in the plot and there’s the sudden appearance of a vain, eccentric new teacher with very little teaching talent. Admittedly, these are all resolved in very different ways to the Potter series, but those few commonalities (especially as they happen fairly early on in the book) may be enough for some people to put this down as a rip-off of that more famous set of books. They would be foolish to do so, in my opinion, but I felt I should put the warning out there, because even I was having a few qualms as I was reading.
But onto the good (awesome!) stuff. One of the reasons I love this series so, is that Fennell has deftly woven a bunch of original short horror tales into the main plot of the story. In the first book it is mainly George who is the narrator of these tales, and in this book they mostly come from Arthur’s elderly friend Mrs Todd, but much like Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror series, these stories add immensely to the pacing and creepiness and spine-tingly-dingliness of the main plot. They’re like little islands of terror dotted off the mainland of Arthur’s adventures. I would never consider myself to be a lover of horror stories, but I must be of the closet variety, because I LOVE these scary snippets – being chilled to the stone by the likes of Skinless Tom and Grey Mary just adds to the reading experience of this series. My favourite of these mini-stories was Husband and Wife – what a ripper! – that features some utterly strange strangers that you would be well advised to avoid, should you bump into them in the (shadow) street.
Another thing I love about the series is the banter between George, Penny and Arthur. George has some classic one-liners thoughout both books and Fennell has a wonderful, dry sense of humour (the best kind!) that includes unexpected and hilarious interjections and extremely colourful and giggle-worthy descriptions. One of my favourites of this book was the description of George’s self-portrait, in which we are told that while George attempts to paint himself in a suit of armour, the end result turns out looking more like a potato draped in ferrets. Oh, the imagery!
Overall, the characters are strong and believable, the tales and back-story surrounding Arthur and Shiverton Hall are thorough and detailed, and the writing is highly engaging and filled with humour, as well as creepiness.
If you like a rollicking mystery that also contains true look-over-your-shoulder scariness, this is the series for you. Shiverton Hall: The Creeper is released on June 5th. Get on it, my friends.
I’m off to drape a potato in ferrets,
*I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review*