“Strange happenings in a school for Unusual Girls”
Hello Readers! Welcome back to the column that gives you the details on great fantastical fiction from Titan Books. Today we will venture into the world of a private girls school that is no ordinary institution of learning. Strange and peculiar occurrences, incidents and happenings take place within the walls of Drearcliff Grange School for Girls that are too odd to believe. Disappearances, kidnappings, unexplained apparitions fill the school year with bewilderment, mystery and chaos and that’s only the half of it. Some of the girls themselves add to the fantasy of the school with their unusual and amazing supernatural abilities. Let us take a look into the strange world of Kim Newman’s novel The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School.
Our story begins with our main character Amy Thomsett arriving at her new boarding school in Somerset England, shortly after her mother found her floating in her sleep. Amy discovers Drearcliff Grange is a special school for girls with gifted and strange abilities like her own. Being new to a school of gifted students is hard enough without having to deal with evil older girls, strange apparitions and unexplained occurrences. But when one of Amy’s friends is kidnapped by a group of mysterious hooded figures, Amy organizes a secret collective, The Moth Club, to rescue their missing friend. Will Amy and her friends be able rescue Kali from the hooded figures? Will they be able to get to the bottom of all the strange mysteries contained within the school? And will they discover who is truly behind the hooded conspiracy connected to Drearcliff Gange?
This novel was incredible. From beginning to end I was highly engrossed in the story and connected to the creative characters. Amy is a great guide throughout this world. We experience the entire strange atmosphere and haunting events of Drearcliff Grange through her eyes. She is likeable, intelligent, courageous and a bit of a nerd with her fascination of moths; which is so enduring because it makes her so real. She has this amazing ability to float that gets her in and out of trouble but also reveals how genuinely good she is through her want to only use it to help others.
Frecks is the first girl we meet from Drearcliff and is the funny one of the group. She introduces Amy to this world and is the first person to give her a place in it. Kali is a princess, daughter of a bandit Rajah in Kafiristan and the tough one of girls. She can be very sneaky when she wants to be and always has Amy’s back. Light Fingers is the quiet one, but is the only other girl in the group that is an Unusual like Amy. She has many talents and is very involved in the school, which gives Amy and the group access to the many different clubs within Drearcliff. With these different personalities and abilities, the members of the Moth Club are not only strong characters, but humorous and delightful to follow on this crazy adventure.
The setting and atmosphere of the novel just pulls you into the story. The school itself is dark, closed off from the rest of Somerset and the girls are never allowed to leave the school grounds. If caught, they are severely punished making the girls feel like they are in a prison. The descriptions of the school and the girl’s reactions to the weird things that happen inside it give you a restless feeling as you read. In this way you experience what the girls are feeling alongside them and exceedingly long for all their plots of escape and discovery to succeed.
The theme of mystery is all through the novel constantly filling you with anticipation for what is going to happen next. There are many unexplained phenomenon and strange occurrences that happen in the school and to individual girls. Only some of the girls are gifted with different abilities so the element of Unusual verses Normal plays a big part within the mystery. This provides great detail to the characters and gives them each their own individual struggle within the school. There is also the component of the world of the “unseen” verses supernatural presences within the “seen world”. Amy constantly struggles with understanding the two different worlds. She is always worrying about how they affect one girl in particular who can access the “unseen world of the purple” and how it might affect everyone else back in the world of reality. Lastly, I loved the symbolism of the different insects throughout the whole of the novel. It’s really interesting to watch which characters represent and connect to Moths, Butterflies and Ants.
If you like fantasy, magic, supernatural characters, chaotic adventures and mysterious conspiracies then this is the story for you. This novel is filled with entertaining characters and a plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat while completely absorbed within the story. I recommend Kim Newman’s The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School to anyone looking for a suspenseful mystery filled with believable characters thrown into magical hijinks.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!