Review Blog

Mar 14 2013

Shiverton Hall by Emerald Fennell

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Bloomsbury, 2013. ISBN 9781408827789. 248 pp.
(Ages: 9-13) Recommended. This is a fantastic debut novel by author Emerald Fennell. A self-confessed horror aficionado, Fennel is also a successful actress with a clear knowledge of just what a young horror junkie craves in a novel. There are obvious Harry Potter-isms here but they were gloriously indulgent for me as a reader rather than being merely imitative. As an example, there is a bus that takes the boarders into the nearby town of Grimstone as a weekend outing where they frequent Miss Bessie's Sweet Shop. Could this be reminiscent perhaps of J.K Rowling's town of Hogsmeade? The main similarity between the two books however is the relationships between the main group of misfit characters and their easy dialogue between each other. There is also a kind of cosiness in the way they are grouped into houses and have shared common areas. Like Hogwarts, despite the evilness all around the school, there seems to be something quite pleasant, homely and comforting about the school and the people within it. That is where the similarities end however as Shiverton Hall is set well within the 'real' world, four hours outside of London and is not in any way centred around wizards, witches or magic.
The story begins with Arthur Bannister being unexpectedly offered a scholarship at the Shiverton Hall boarding school. The place is downright spooky to look at and is shrouded in tales of curses and evil, not to mention the school bullies and the headmistress who seems determined to make his time at school horrible. Even though Arthur quickly makes friends with George, Jake and Penny, everything is quickly starting to turn bad. Supernatural beings seem to be at play here and, as Arthur soon finds out, there are some friends you don't want to have at all. Can Arthur and his friends work out what is happening and why, before someone really gets hurt?
Throughout the book are smatterings of ghost tales told by Arthur's friend and Shiverton Hall's resident ghost expert George. These spooky tales of Shiverton Hall's past are surprisingly scary, usually result in a death, and are sometimes gory. Definitely not for the faint hearted or the easily spooked child. But for those children who can't get enough of Goosebumps type horror this is the book for them. It appears definite that there will be follow up books to Shiverton Hall as while the loose ends of this tale are tied up it is clear that the school is hiding many more dark secrets.
Nicole Smith-Forrest

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