We Don't Need No Education AKA a review of The Bone Weaver's Orchard by Sarah Read
Charlie Winslow has been sent to The Old Cross School for Boys, his one friend disapears, a ragged grey figure creeps into the dormitory at night, and the school has more secrets than just it's hidden passages.
This creepy tale kept me guessing from beginning to end! It has elements that make it perfect for fans of gothic fiction, horror, thrillers and everything in between. It was fast paced with nary a dull moment, but never felt rushed or sacrificed atmosphere.
It's pretty easy for child characters to end up obnoxious and annoying, or too adult-like, but Charlie is a wonderful protagonist. He is a believably written young boy who is clever, resourceful, brave, and easy to cheer for. If that's not enough with the gardener Sam, the nurse Matron Grace, and the head boy Malcom, Read embraces the individual stereotypes while slightly subverting them. They seem to be on Charlie's side, helping him uncover the secrets of the school while protecting him from them, but in Old Cross things often aren't what they seem. Maybe other readers will guess all the secrets before the end, but I had a constantly evolving LIST of maybes and possibilities until the very last word.
The Bone Weaver's Orchard takes the mood and atmosphere I love from gothic novels, subtracts the things that can occasionally test my patience (slow pacing, overly verbose prose), injects the fast paced guessing game of a quality thriller, and gives me the disturbing imagery I crave from a horror story. This is definitely one you should check out from an author I'll be keeping a close eye on.