I absolutely loved Cat Gray’s first novel “Spellstoppers”, with its mix of magic and normal life; so I was delighted when I got the opportunity to read and review this new book. Of course, I was hoping that it could meet the high standard of the first; well, I need not have worried as it surpassed my high expectations.
This story is set in central London, where Pip and his parents have moved to, from Norwich, because of his scientist mother’s new job. Things do not start out well as they find the flat and shop they have rented is down a side alley that looks as if it is out of a Dickens novel. The alley is dark, seedy and the flat itself is very run down and things do not get any better when a young girl tells Pip that they should leave because “IF YOU STAY HERE, SOMETHING EXTREMELY BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN” Well, she turns out to be perfectly correct. The very next morning Pip discovers his parents have totally change personality; no longer are they Tofu eating, TV hating and anti-mobile type people, now they are sitting in front of the TV and ignoring everything around them, so what has happened and what can Pip do? When he meets the young girl again he discovers that she is called Fliss and she lives next door in the “Ragged Hare” pub. He also finds out that this is a very unusual alley in that it is the home of some very unusual inhabitants. There are vampires, werewolves, banshees and ghosts amongst others and the alley is closer to Diagon Alley than it is to anything else. What he also discovers is that there is a mysterious character called the spirit snatcher, which feeds on people’s spirits, leaving them as shadows of their former selves and his parents are the latest victims. Not only that, he is likely to be the next target when he reaches his 13th birthday in a few days (at Halloween actually). The race is on to find the spirit snatcher and to find a way to reverse the effects on Pip’s parents.
What a wonderfully dark and magical story this is, with an excellent cast of characters representing many of the folk tales from our islands. However, we find that beneath their unusual appearances and habits, there are people who just want to live their lives and not have to be looking out for danger all of the time. Above all, there is the element of trust; when his parents are not there, who can Pip actually trust to help him get things back to his ‘normal’ and will Fliss learn to trust Pip enough to tell him her own dark secret? I really loved the way that the author has built up the atmosphere in the alley, but also the roller coaster of expectation as we think that the villain has been unmasked, only to have the arguments dashed. Thankfully there is a denouement, but how can the villain be stopped and what, if anything will reverse all of their evil doings?
This will make a tremendous addition to a Halloween collection, either in school, or at home. I can’t wait for more fabulous tales from this really excellent author.
Cat Gray is an author and journalist, based in London and Ireland. She started her journalism career at the age of 19, interviewing musicians and celebrities in between attending classes, then went on to be an editor at a series of glossy magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country.
Since she was very young, she’s always believed that there’s an adventure just around the corner, and this is reflected in her magical fantasy stories. Spellstoppers was her first book.