Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

review by Maryom

Orphans Sam and Lizzie are used to living rough on the streets of Victorian London but Christmas is approaching and the weather turning colder. In desperation, Sam begs for money - but picks the wrong man to ask - well known miser, Ebenezer Scrooge - and is rudely turned away. His frustration and despair reaching breaking point, Sam resolves to take the old man's money - even if it means harming, even killing him. But it's Christmas Eve and ghosts are gathering round Scrooge to warn him of his evil ways. The same ghosts come to Sam and Lizzie - showing them their past, present and likely future. We all know Scrooge had a change of heart, but will Sam?

You'll probably have noticed before now that I love Chris Priestley's ghost stories - The Dead of Winter sends shivers up and down my spine far more than many 'adult' horror stories which I find so heavy-handed they become comical.

With his last book The Dead Men Stood Together, Chris Priestley took a classic story (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) and re-invented it to appeal to a younger audience. This time it's Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a story which most of us know by hearsay or from TV and films even if we haven't read the book; the miserly Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and persuaded to change his ways. Priestley visits the same scenario through the eyes of two homeless youngsters so down on their luck that the warmest sleeping-place they can find is among the tombs in a graveyard. It's not the best spot to pick, as with a moan and a rattle of chains one of the graves opens and a ghost appears....
There are plenty of spine-tingling, hide-behind-the-sofa moments but as with the original, there are lots of threads to spark debate - living conditions of Victorian London, inequalities of wealth, how past actions shape our future.
A spooky, compelling read especially for Christmas fire-side reading, suitable for teens and upwards.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Bloomsbury
Genre - Supernatural, Ghost Stories, 12+

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