by Alex Bell
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Pub Date 07 Sep 2017 | Archive Date 12 Jul 2018
Little Tiger Group, Stripes Publishing
Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.
Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 39 members
I had already read Frozen Charlotte and a number of others from the Red Eye horror collection, but when I found out about this prequel I was so excited I couldn't wait to get my hands on a proof from the publisher. The book did not disappoint. It was even gorier and scarier than the first novel. And I think I even preferred the historical setting in this prequel, the harshness of it made this ever more horrific. Wonderful work yet again from Alex Bell! These Red Eye books have been so popular in the school library I work in, and I imagine this will be just as sought after as the others! Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy.
I devoured this book in one day. It was so much fun. It reminded me of John Boyne's "This House is Haunted" which itself is an homage to Dickensian era ghost stories. It has everything you'd want out of a story of demonic dolls and old industrial schools and I want to get a crate of Frozen Charlottes, a box of these books and give one to everyone I know at Hallowe'en.
Do you like your novels with creepy little dolls and atmospheric settings? Then this is your story.
Charlotte Says is a prequel to the popular Frozen Charlotte novel from 2015. Not having read the previous instalment, I went into this knowing nothing about the storyline or characters, and I can honestly say I don't think it made any difference. This could easily be read as a standalone story.
A historical novel, this is set in 1901, with our main character Jemima excepting a job at an All Girls industrial school in the Isle of Skye following the death of her mother and step father in mysterious circumstances. Soon after her arrival an usual package arrives from Charlotte's former home which contains a number of Frozen Charlotte dolls. As mysterious occurrences start to happen, Jemima starts to suspect that the dolls may be more dangerous than they first appear.
There's instantly a feeling of foreboding and dread that surrounds the school, and the headmistress is as despicable as you would expect her to be. At times this felt almost like a Frances Hodgeson Barnett novel, with the descriptions of down trodden girls, awful maids and slave labour. I found I had a lot of fondness for all of the girls at the school, especially Estella the outcast of the group. This obviously helped a great deal as the novel progressed and they become more deeply entrenched in the dolls 'games' and misfortunes. I cared greatly about what would happen to the girls, and became anxious when they appeared to be in peril.
The introduction of dolls is cleverly done, and really sets the tone for the rest of the novel. It involves the basement lit only by candlelight and giggling. It's creepy, and scary and the author clearly knows how to set a scene and make the reader feel unnerved. This continues as the story develops, as the dolls get more adventurous in the toy room during the night and as they start to explore the dolls house.
As we move deeper into the novel, the story starts to flit between past and present. We see how Jemima came to be at Whiteladies, her former home, and how the accident with her mother occurred. I would have liked to have spent more time with these chapters as they're short, rather than have them interrupt the flow of the present story so much. Having said that, most of the novel is well paced, with plenty of action and no side stories to get distracted by. All of the focus is on the dolls, and the plot progresses quickly, which is great.
The only aspect I didn't particularly warm to in the novel was Jemima's relationship with Henry. Henry seemed a little useless at times, not really acting as any real help in times of distress, and he often came across as a bit wet. He wasn't as strong a character as Jemima and the girls, and his undying love for Jemima seemed a little far fetched considering he hasn't seen her in a number of years. However, that said their relationship plays more of a secondary role to the plot, so didn't ruin the story for me too much.
The conclusion is satisfying and very open ended, which helps it work as a prequel. I was surprised that this is aimed at a young adult audience however, as some of the final scenes are a bit graphic in their depiction of violence. I would be cautious before letting younger readers read this. For me though, I'm already set to read Frozen Charlotte ready for Halloween season.
Frozen Charlotte was the creepiest of the first batch of Red Eye books. Charlotte Says outdoes it. The setting adds a lot and the mystery unfolds at just the right speed - not dragged out enough to be annoying, not so quickly it doesn't impact. The mirror trip is the highlight for me, and I love how everything fits perfectly with Frozen but still it's not predictable at all. I will definitely be looking out for more books by Alex - as long as I can read them during the day!
Thanks for the opportunity to read this.
This is horror. Torn between needing to know and fearing for the characters, I read this fast. Alex Bell doesn't shy away from harming some characters you are holding your breath for. The atmosphere is perfectly pitched and young horror fans will love the action. A prequel to Frozen Charlotte, which should you read first? Compulsive.
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