Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Review: The Dead of Winter, by Chris Priestley

Priestley, Chris. The Dead of Winter. 224 p. Bloomsbury USA. 2012. Hardcover $16.99. ISBN 9781599907451.

This engaging, atmospheric gothic novel is the perfect antidote to the 80-degee weather we've been having here in Southern California lately. I mean, it's JANUARY. I'd like to feel the cold!

Well, despite the unseasonable temperatures, reading The Dead of Winter made me want to wrap myself in a heavy blanket and sit in front of a roaring fire to keep warm. It's deliciously chilling!

The plot neatly comprises nearly all the familiar Victorian gothic tropes: an orphan, a gloomy old manor with a tortured owner; a helpful and loyal servant; a tragic ghost. Oh, and moors. In short, it's pretty awesome.

This book reads like an homage to classic gothic novels, and could be a great introduction to Poe or the Bronte sisters. Occasional SAT words encourage vocabulary building, but short sentences and a fairly straightforward plot make the old-fashioned writing style very approachable for a young reader.

The ambiguous ending works well with the tone of the novel, and the overall effect is genuinely creepy, but not exactly scary-- a solid pick for a middle schooler who likes ghost stories. 

The Dead of Winter was published in the UK in 2010, and will hit US bookstore shelves on January 31. ARC for review provided by Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley.

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