Saturday, 9 July 2016
FANTASY BOOK REVIEW: THE SECRETS OF DREARCLIFF GRANGE SCHOOL BY KIM NEWMAN
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
St Trininans was a school to the naughtiest children, Drearcliff Grange might look like a normal boarding school to the untrained eye, but inside the girls who stay there have strange gifts. Amy Thomsett is one of those special girls who has the habit of sleeping on the ceiling. Set in the 1920s Amy finds her way around the school to be easier than expected once she has found the right friends and is soon initiated into the Moth Club where she and her friends have to find a girl who has been abducted by an arcane hooded person.
The story is set into chapters, the first two labelled as terms, the third The Remove and the last part is the Drearcliff School Register of houses and the girls listed in them. The first two chapters have sub chapters that tell of what happened at the school when Amy arrives. As Amy has come later in the year she has been put in a house lower than expected, Desdemona, but she hopes that she might grow out of her unusual ability. Not that it matters as Amy gets the help of the girls who need her in return to find their missing girl.
Her fellow pupils are a mismatched lot; Frecks, Light Fingers, and Kali make up a near dangerous team of special and specialist girls who use their ability for good. Like Amy all these girls are orphans, born with a caul or had strange things happen during their birth in church or other locations in ways that can't be explained under normal circumstances. As they are like this,they would normally be shunned by ordinary people, but on reading past page 29, even as a reader you would have wanted to have been a part of Drearcliff, finding out not just about the existing members of Desdemona, but the other ones as well. Even the secrets of the school itself and the various characters that come with it. Readers will realise that Newman has planned well in advance of his characters, having them encouraged to know what it means to be a Drearcliff girl. These aren't débutantes who want to marry gentlemen, they are the girls who will live their lives the way they want and marry only if they want to - unusual men are a priority. Amy finally knows what it means to be special in a good way by the end of this novel and how good it is to be accepted by her peers.
An English Ghost Story was the last novel of Newman's I remember reading, so it made it easy to read another of his supernatural fantasy novels.
Known for his novels Anno Dracula, the Diogenese Club, Jago, The Quorum, Life's Lottery and Professor Moriarty's The Hound of the D'Urbevilles, Kim Newman recounts his love of the ghostly past with The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange.