Where are my fellow John Bellairs fans? Raise your hands and be counted. I need to know who you are. It’s important to this review because I’m an avid horror fan who was first nourished on the horror milk of John Bellairs novels. Bellairs wrote dark, gothic mysteries for young readers and he never shied away from being “too scary” for kids. I relished my time in those pages.
Here I am now at forty-two years of age and Sarah Read, the talented author of The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, has just rekindled that fire by tapping some of my favorite things I loved as a young reader.
But hold up! This is not to say this book is a young adult book, (although it could be read and enjoyed by anyone) I’m just saying it reached out beyond the written word in a familiar way that immediately appealed to me. First and foremost, this book is gothically atmospheric in the best possible way. The Old Cross School for Boys is a horribly delicious setting for all sorts of wickedness and secrets.
As soon as we meet our protagonist, Charley Winslow (I love you, Charley!!) he is dumped on the steps of the most intimidating building one could imagine. The author’s prose is noticeably rich as she takes her time on all the interesting details. The character development is another level! I found myself falling in love with Charley and then his unlikely friend Sam—like dangerously in love with them. My reader’s heart was bound and tethered to them, making all the suspense and terror that much more threatening and heart-pounding!
Especially Charley. This young man is so sweet and eccentric with his little passion for insects. He’s brave and curious and I just wanted to reach through the pages and take him home with me, away from mean boys, sinister adults and hidden secrets that demand to stay hidden.
This book was one of those stories that you find yourself thinking about all day while you’re busy “adulting” and looking forward to jumping back into as soon as you get in bed at night. My time with Sarah Read and her words on these pages are some of my favorite. A serious contender for my favorite book of 2019.
One more thing: there was a moment in this book where I gasped out loud. There was a very distinct turning from a moody, dark “coming of age” story to grisly horror, full stop. It was from that moment on; I knew the full extent of Read’s talent. She’s an amazing, gifted writer and I will absolutely show up for anything she puts out in the future. Horror lovers, this book is a must have and Sarah Read is a new insta-buy author.