Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School was published by Titan Books in October 2015.
Information about Kim Newman:
Kim Newman is a well known and respected author and movie critic. He writes regularly for Empire Magazine and contributes to The Guardian, The Times, Time Out and others. He makes frequent appearances on radio and TV. He has won the Bram Stoker, International Horror Guild, British Fantasy and British Science Fiction Awards and been nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and James Herbert Awards.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
Information about The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School:
A week after Mother found her sleeping on the ceiling, Amy Thomsett is delivered to her new school, Drearcliff Grange in Somerset. Although it looks like a regular boarding school, Amy learns that Drearcliff girls are special, the daughters of criminal masterminds, outlaw scientists and master magicians. Several of the pupils also have special gifts like Amy's, and when one of the girls in her dormitory is abducted by a mysterious group in black hoods, Amy forms a secret, superpowered society called the Moth Club to rescue their friend. They soon discover that the Hooded Conspiracy runs through the School, and it's up to the Moth Club to get to the heart of it.
A REVIEW OF KIM NEWMAN'S THE SECRETS OF DREARCLIFF GRANGE SCHOOL
Are you fed up with reading fluffy young adult fantasy fiction about girls who adore supernatural beings and fall in love with them? Do you want to read a novel that has intriguing darkness in it? If you want to read something a bit different and entertaining, Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School is an interesting novel for you, because the author gives an invigorating treatment to YA fantasy.
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School is a well written young adult dark fantasy novel with sinister undertones. It starts out as a normal young adult fantasy novel, but soon grows into a dark fantasy novel filled with excitement and fascinating strangeness.
The boarding school genre has become a popular genre in British literature. Many novels and stories have been written about unexpected happenings in boarding schools. Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School is a welcome addition to this genre, because it's a well written novel that differs from other similar kind of novels by being a much darker novel. It reads a bit like a supernatural combination of Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew mystery stories and boarding school stories.
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School can be recommended to young adults and adults alike, because it contains elements and happenings that will appeal to both readerships. Young adult readers will enjoy reading about the school and what happens to the girls while adults will be mesmerised by the dark and well written story.
I enjoyed reading this novel and found it interesting. I don't normally read much this kind of fiction, because too many young adult novels are full of fluff and authors tend to recycle clichés and familiar plot elements in a frustratingly annoying way without any kind of traces of originality or style. Fortunately, this novel was something different and had that special something that made it worth reading. Kim Newman writes about familiar issues and themes, but he does it so well that his novel is superior to similar kind of novels. When I read this novel, I got the impression that the author has wanted to please his readers by delivering a good and addictive story, because there's an enthusiastic feel to it.
Here's information about the story:
- The events take place in Somerset.
- When Amy Thomsett is found sleeping on the ceiling, she is delivered to Drearcliff Grange school like a parcel. She meets Frecks who introduces the school and its rules to the overwhelmed and surprised Amy. Amy meets the Headmistress, Dr. Swan, who tells her that she's an Unusual and has Abilities that can be cultivated to find Applications. She gets to know the school, its routines and its different places, and soon she becomes a Drearcliff Grange Girl.
- One of the girls in Amy's dormitory, Kali, is abducted by a mysterious group of people who were black clothes and hoods. Amy and the girls find out that there's a Hooded Conspiracy in the school. They form a secret society of their own, The Moth Club, to go up against the Hooded Conspiracy and begin to investigate things...
This is the beginning of an intriguing young adult fantasy novel that's filled with adventure, excitement, strange happenings and good storytelling.
The characterisation works well, but it isn't deep. In my opinion, it's good that the characterisation isn't deep, because different rules apply to it. Too deep a characterisation would've possibly ruined the story and its entertainment values.
Amy is an interesting and easily likeable protagonist. She's a girl who's been sent to Drearcliff Grange against her will, because her mother wanted to put her there. Her life changes in many ways when she enters Drearcliff Grange and becomes a Drearcliff Girl. She is fascinated by different species of moths, because moths are her enthusiasm. Her enthusiasm in moths is explored in an interesting way.
The cast of characters is delightfully fresh and memorable, because the author writes about such diverse characters as Polly Palgraive, Sidoney Gryce and Dora Paule. Polly Palgraive is a girl who has been devoured by a maggot that uses her like a puppet. Sidoney Gryce, the Head Girl, is a sadistic girl who embodies the School Spirit and applies discipline. Dora Paule is an odd girl, because her strange condition is caused by being able to see different planes of reality.
The author writes well about the different characters and their abilities and eccentricities. Character interaction is perfect, because the dialogues between the characters are entertaining. The dialoges contains quite a lot of small and important details.
Reading about the adventures of the Moth Club and its members' attempts to find out what has happened to Kali was fascinating. Because their foes were hooded, the girls wore masks and bravely investigated things. After the kidnapping, the girls turn their attention to other things and soon they have to face the Black Skirts who are taking over the school.
Drearcliff Grange is a fascinating boarding school, because it's a place for girls with special gifts (all of the girls are daughters of criminal masterminds, outlaw scientists and master magicians, and they have an interesting background). The school is located on top of a cliff. Waves that was against the cliff have eroded the supporting rock and caused part of the school to collapse, but the new wings are safely inland.
There are five Houses in Drearcliff Grange: Ariel, Viola, Tamora, Desdemona and Goneril. The girls of the different Houses differ from each other in terms of appearance, abilities and behaviour. They have many powers and abilities and they're encouraged to develop them.
Kim Newman's vision of the Drearcliff Grange boarding school is truly something to behold, because he has thought of many things that together form an original glimpse into a school for special girls. The school he has created may cause a few nightmares for sensitive readers, because some of the happenings are fascinatingly dark and twisted (there's something gorgeously macabre about these happenings).
It was interesting for me to read about the school rules, punishments and encouragements. Drearcliff Grange has its own system for carrying out punishments and encouragements. The Minor and Major Infractions are dealt in different ways.
The author pays attention to how new and older girls are treated at the school and what happens between the Houses. This novel contains descriptions of power play, cunning rescues, twisted plots and treacheries in a highly entertaining format.
In my opinion, Kim Newman has a perfect sense of style and dread. He's particularly good at keeping the story fresh and creating an atmosphere that oozes magic and strangeness. He builds the story well and develops it in an exciting way towards the thrilling climax.
It was fascinating to read about the place that was called the Purple. Amy was introduced to it by one of the girls. In the Purple, things are different and certain things can be seen about persons that are normally impossible to see. I'm sure that the Purple will fascinate many readers.
I was also fascinated by the summoning of the Other Ones from the Purple, and I enjoyed reading about the ritual of the Runnel and the Flute. I'm not sure if all readers will agree with me on this, but in my opinion, there was something intriguingly weird fiction-esque and apocalyptic in these things.
I think it's good to mention that this novel has interesting references to the classic fairy tale "Rapunzel" by the Brothers Grimm. The author has fluently incorporated elements of "Rapunzel" to his story.
I was honestly amazed at how fresh this novel felt when I read it. Although many novels have been written about boarding schools and what happens in them, there was something different in this novel that intrigued me. In my opinion, much of the freshness comes from the irresistible darkness of the story, because most YA fantasy novels aren't as dark as this one. The dark story will appeal to adult readers who have read dark fantasy stories, but it will also be of interest to younger readers who want to read something else than bland and fluffy YA fantasy that can be found in every bookstore around the globe.
Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School has the power to hook the reader by its strange happenings. Whether you're a young adult or an adult, you'll find something to enjoy in it. The dark, magical and adventurous story is told with such enthusiasm and expertise that you simply won't be able to resist its power. It temporarily transports you into a magical school world where unexpected things can and will happen.
In my opinion, this novel has that special British touch that makes it unique. British people have a long tradition of sending children to boarding schools and the author uses this tradition to his advantage by writing about what kind of things happen in boarding schools.
Kim Newman writes good and fluent prose. It's a pleasure to read this novel, because the author keeps the story flowing all the time and doesn't let is become dry or dull. Because he's an experienced author and has written novels and stories for adults, he writes much better prose than many other YA authors. He doesn't underestimate his target audience.
Because I enjoyed this novel, I give it strong 4.5 stars on the scale from 1 to 5 stars. It's a well written and a bit different kind of a YA dark fantasy novel that deserves to be read.
If you're looking for an exciting story to read, you can't go wrong by reading Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School. It's an excellent and entertaining novel with an easily likeable and interesting heroine. This novel will most likely be of special interest to readers who are familiar with stories about boarding schools or have personal experiences about these schools, because it's one of the best novels of its kind.
Excellent and entertaining young adult dark fantasy fiction!