From School Library Journal
Grade 6-9–The town of Redford, England, is haunted by nightmares, as though every child's worst fear is moments from coming true. Almost before they can speak, the youngsters learn the skipping rhyme that leads to the source of the evil: One in fire, two in blood/Three in storm and four in flood….Thirteen steps to the Dark Man's door/Won't be turning back no more. Five years earlier, Bryan watched his brother chant the words while jumping along 13 stones deep in the woods and no one has seen him since. His parents, like all of the local adults, are unable or unwilling to see the danger and find other excuses to explain the disappearance of numerous kids. Now 15-year-old Bryan and his friend, Stephen, must discover the truth behind the town's malevolent secret before the Dark Man claims Stephen's sister. The time-honored tale of children battling their nightmares can be rehashed repeatedly. However, this rendition does not stand up to the test. The author shows promise and this book has the beginnings of a great story, but the phrasing is occasionally awkward and doesn't always mesh within the context of the surrounding scenes. Some of the sentences are a bit overwritten, bogging down the pace of the narrative at crucial moments. Reluctant readers and horror fans will be attracted to the premise, but may get stalled midway.–Morgan Johnson-Doyle, Sierra High School, Colorado Springs, CO
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Gr. 8-11. The mythical bogeyman of the town of Redford is called the Dark Man. But 15-year-old Bryan knows there's more to the story than make-believe. Five years earlier, he watched the Dark Man take his brother. Bryan blames himself, and he feels alone in his bewildering fear until he meets two boys who have also been targets of the Dark Man's amorphous, supernatural wrath. Together the boys risk their lives to find and destroy the mysterious, murderous power that haunts their community. Richardson turns gnawing unease into bald terror with familiar (and sometimes violent) scary-movie conventions, such as a sinister, oft-repeated, singsong children's rhyme and a haunted house where blood drips from ceilings. Although these dramatic cliches create effective horror, they feel at odds with Bryan's clearly articulated survivor's guilt and the story's earnest philosophical questions about the nature of fear, evil, and death. Still, the intense, nightmarish conclusion brings some cohesion to the story's opposing moods, and teen fans of graphic supernatural horror will feel icy shivers as they vicariously discover all "the Dark Man's places." Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved