Monday, 7 December 2015
The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst by Griselda Heppel
review by Maryom
"In the shadows of Walton Hall a demon lurks. His name: Mephistopheles. In 1586, young John Striven struck a bargain with him in return for help against his murderous foster brother. Nice work for a demon - or it should have been. Because somehow, his plan to trap the 12-year-old went wrong. All he needs now is another soul, in similar desperation, to call on him. Enter 13 year-old Henry Fowst. A pupil at Northwell School, Henry longs to win the Northwell History Essay Prize. Exploring the school's sixteenth century library, he stumbles across the diary of a boy his own age beginning this 20th day of Januarie, 1586...Soon Henry is absorbed in John Striven's struggles with his jealous foster-brother, Thomas Walton, who, it seems, will stop at nothing to be rid of him. Then matters take a darker turn. Battling to escape his own enemy, Henry finds his life beginning to imitate John's and when the diary shows John summoning 'an Angellick Spirit' to his aid, Henry eagerly tries the same. Unfortunately, calling up Mephistopheles lands both boys in greater danger than they'd ever bargained for..."
In this 'tragickall history', Griselda Heppel has taken the old tale of Faust, and given it a new twist, placing it in a modern context that teens can relate to. Having won a scholarship to an exclusive school, Henry is looked down on by many of the wealthier pupils, alternately rejected and bullied by them. For most of them, winning the Essay prize is just a bit of fun; for Henry, it represents a substantial cash boost - and that's before a generous parent offers a laptop as an extra incentive! His research quickly leads him into questionable actions though - and he soon realises that summoning an 'Angellick Spirit' was not such a good idea at all, that he's been drawn in to evil things and compelled to follow the Spirit's commands, and that if he continues people are going to get seriously hurt.
The reader knows well before Henry does, that he's got himself caught up with something truly sinister, and, although I expected him to see sense and not go along with the Spirit's plans, there were times when I thought Henry would be irretrievably won over to 'the dark side'.
It's a story with many aspects to it - a little bit of fantasy and supernatural, a little bit of historical fiction, a little bit of contemporary teen problems - but above all it's a very readable, enjoyable tale.
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Matador Publishing
Genre - children's fiction, fantasy,