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The Dead of Winter Hardcover – January 31, 2012
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Praise for Tales of Terror from the Black Ship: 'A fantastic page-turner, with a really scary ending' Independent on Sunday Praise for Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror: 'Scare yourselves silly ... recalls the best of Edward Gorey in wickedness and humour ... Perfect for reading aloud' Observer Praise for The Dead of Winter: 'A superb little ghost story ... it's quite chilling, and has the capacity to give children a pleasingly good scare. It would make a great book for reading aloud over a series of nights' SFX 'Open a Chris Priestley Gothic ghost story and what seeps from the pages, like mist from a desolate marsh, is his sheer love of the genre. This passion not only shapes a gripping story with well-rounded characters, but lifts the level of writing well above similar Victorian chillers ... Deliciously creepy with lots of twists and turns to keep young readers on edge' Daily Mail --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Chris Priestley is the author of the spine-tingling Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship and Mister Creecher. Chris is also an illustrator, painter, and cartoonist.
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Michael Vyner is orphaned, lost, and distraught as he’s nudged from his mother’s grave to the guardianship of his benefactor. An isolated and foreboding estate awaits him along with its secrets, horrors, and mysteries.
From the start, the first person narration echoes elements of gothic fiction while evoking nods to Victorian works such as Dicken’s and later horror techniques of Stephen King (think Great Expectations meets The Shining). While the writing was promising and the scenes well painted, after a while it was clear that this story was nothing new, and in fact, rehashing something quite tired and old.
I have no clue how this story has garnered so much recommendation and praise. I chose it for use with a mystery literary unit for my children’s homeschool studies, and while we will still be reading it, the discussion will focus less on the mystery and suspense and more on the lacking presentations of women. Though let it be said that falling on clichéd prototypes also highlights an author’s inept ability to formulate complex and developed antagonists alongside a failure to craft a compelling reveal and resolution in the mystery genre.
The real horror here is the novel’s reliance on flat, stereotypical depictions of female characters. That kind of characterization isn’t simply cringe-worthy; it’s archaic. One dimensional characterization that feminist literary scholars have been decrying for decades should not be appearing in young adult fiction written in 2012! Modern fiction writers should know when to draw on classic literary periods and when to transcend them. There’s nothing to be gained by emulating the relegation of women into stifling representations of either angel or monster, where they are either helpless victims or evil incarnate. To add insult to injury, the novel then exults in affirming the male characters’ sensibilities of insight, perception, understanding, and heroism. And thus, the young male protagonist finds kinship with the mature male characters, joining the good old boy club of fiction, of “heroes” it seems. (Even the male dog is portrayed this way.) This is not the type of coming-of-age story, one where all the women in the male’s life have deserted him, traumatized him, or been made helpless victims, that young male readers should be reading, nor is it one that young females should accept.
Instead of recommending this title to other readers, let me recommend a book to the author—Gilbert and Gubar’s Mad Woman in the Attic would be a nice start. While he may have familiarized himself with modern horror fiction and gothic literature for inspiration, it’s clear he has not cracked open this fundamental publication in feminist literary analysis and learned that savvy women readers have long been onto the misrepresentations of women in fiction by men, a misrepresentation that this novel perpetuates.
Characters: I liked all of the characters in this novel. I thought that Michael was very brave and that the lawyer was above and beyond nice by taking him into his home. Michael is not afraid to ask questions and as most people are, very curious about the mysterious things and people he begins to see.
Originality: There was not much that was particularly original about the story, But the main ideas that it is a young man solving the mystery and that he seems to have more guts than the adults do around him was a nice change of pace. Michael was everything a reader looks for in a good main character for a mystery setting. He asks the right questions at the right time and determined to find an answer.
Plot: Michael's life is thrown upside down when his mother dies and leaves him orphaned. He is told at the funeral that he will now be living with Sir Stephen Clarendon and moved to his country estate. Upon arrival he begins to hear the whisperings of the help and staff of the haunting and rumors and stories of suicide. And then it's not long before he starts seeing them himself, through the windows and the mirrors and decides that he wants answers to this mystery.
Writing: Set in Victorian England this story has a Gothic overtone along with the suspenseful mystery of the plot. Although the poltergeist is meant to be more of a lean towards a horror novel, beyond being creepy I do not believe it will cause any nightmares, even for younger readers. It is a shorter book that can easily be read in a day or two and ideas that are geared towards younger readers.
Rating: I have never read anything by this author before. I think that the writing is more for the younger readers and tweens. The scare factor of the story can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Although I never lost any sleep over it, I did have moments where the hair on the back of my neck stood up. For younger readers I would rate this story 4 stars. The concepts and writing are easy to follow and the shortness of the book still falls into the novel range, but engaging enough that reluctant readers will keep reading. For teen readers or older this story may seem a little simplistic, the plot can be easily followed but it really made for a great weekend read for me. I think that readers would also enjoy reading The Poisoned House. Same Gothic feeling, with a female main character and a great ghost story as well.
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Quick & Dirty: Michael's unnecessary overdramatic speech patterns detailing the events after his mother's death grew tiresome to...Read more