Shiverton Hall. It would be all too easy to jump to the lazy comparison of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, but that’s like saying all school-based stories are the same. Grange Hill this isn’t. Here, Emerald Fennell delivers her second slice of fearsome storytelling, as Arthur Bannister returns to Shiverton Hall for a second term. It must be challenging these days to even attempt to write a story such as this because of the huge popularity of the Harry Potter series, but Fennell approaches her work admirably with a clear passion and enthusiasm for all things ghastly.
It’s no surprise that the TV rights have been sold to the Shiverton Hall series. There’s something special about a horror series for younger readers and viewers and Fennell’s work is no different. I remember getting into horror at a fairly young age myself with ghost stories round the campfire or the playground, and reading Point Horror and Goosebumps. R. L. Stine was my personal horror hero and I’ve always felt that horror for youngsters is such a challenging thing to produce because of that fine line you have to tread. Again Fennell clearly knows what she’s doing here and plays her cards perfectly between comedic friendships and a constant underlying tension.
In the end, a book like Shiverton Hall: The Creeper is about enjoying being scared. Whether it’s the main storyline of Arthur’s return to the Hall and the Shiverton bloodline, or the strange goings on with new teacher Cornwall, there’s always something happening to be suspicious about. The main highlights of the book are in fact the short tales that pop up every so often told by various characters. These are like classic ghost stories and folklore, bound to give any reader the chills, and show Fennell to be an author for a true grasp of the macabre and pushing people’s buttons.
Building to a satisfying and suitably spine-chilling ending, The Creeper improves on the starting point Fennell gave us in the original Shiverton Hall and builds on everything that was good about the first outing. The characters feel more natural, and the overall pacing of the book works very well. It’s one of those that you’re scared for what’s to come, but you can’t help but carry on. Fennell gives just enough of a hint of something intriguing to get you to think ‘just one more chapter!’ and before you know it, you’re at the end.
The Shiverton Hall series is certainly recommended for a younger reader looking to start out in the horror genre, and The Creeper proves that Fennell’s success wasn’t a one off. There are hints of her acting talent here as there’s a clear understanding of the importance of character, giving us realistic relationships and believable situations – well, as believable as creepy men in paintings and witches can be! Let’s hope this isn’t the last visit we take to Shiverton Hall in book form, and the TV show is definitely one to watch out for.
Shiverton Hall: The Creeper is out now from Bloomsbury in all good book stores.