By Louise Douglas
A child who does not know her name…
In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.
Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…
In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.
Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…
All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.
Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…
Note – Thanks to Netgalley and Boldwood Books for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.
This book opens with a BANG! It’s got a scary opening hook that draws you in immediately and doesn’t really let go until the very end.
As a lover of gothic ghost stories, this one is pretty good. Told in dual time, the author starts in the present, then flips back and forth between 1993 and 1903 unraveling the mystery of a young woman and child washed up on the shore and brought to All Hallows Asylum/Boarding School.
It’s 1993 and Lewis Tyler is a young teenage boy still mourning the loss of his mother when his father, an emotionally challenged man, and his new wife decide to send Lewis to All Hallows Boarding School in the hopes of turning him from his goth ways. So, right off the bat, we’re emotionally involved. Lewis is rejected, unwanted and discarded. Once at school, he meets up with Isak, another rejected teenage boy, and together they begin to weather the hauntings of All Hallows.
Then we go back in time to 1903 where the mystery begins with the arrival of a young woman and small child at All Hallows back when it was used as an asylum. We meet Nurse Emma Everdene who assumes care of the child and becomes very attached to her. In order to keep the child safe from other asylum inmates, Emma and the child, Harriet, are kept sequestered in an attic room directly above where Lewis and Isak’s room is. As Emma’s own story unfolds, we discover she also is an outcast, thrown away by her parents at a time when “unruly, free-thinking” women were put in asylums as punishment until they learned to be respectable.
The story leads us to events that took place on Boxing Day 1903 which results in a skeleton Lewis finds on the grounds in 1993. Lewis and Isak take to solving the mystery as they make an attempt to change the past.
Several themes are going on here. The first is abandonment with the main characters of Lewis, Isak and Emma all being abandoned by their parents in one form or another. Individuality is another theme. Back in 1903, patients were brought in and those with their faculties were quickly stripped of them, along with their hair, clothes and anything else that defined them. The same happened to Lewis in 1993. He arrives fully in goth gear where quick judgments are made against him. He is forced to discard his goth attire and given a uniform while his hair is cut short, stripping away his own identity. Grief is another theme. Both Lewis and Isak have lost their mums unexpectedly. Emma lost her child. All parties are struggling to recover. Last is the theme of isolation and the result it can have on a sane mind. Douglas explores this fully with the character of Emma as she and Harriet are isolated from the rest of the asylum and how that thwarts and plays with her definition of reality. I really love how the author writes these as history repeating itself. It’s almost like it’s an effect of being at All Hallows.
The scare factor is decent. After the opening scare, it’s not a huge theme nor are there a lot of jump scares but there is a creepiness steeped deep in the story and its eeriness is enough to leave you sleeping with the lights on. The story does slow up but only in a few places and it doesn’t last long. I was concerned about that since there’s 100 chapters to this book.
Overall, I’d recommend it as a good Halloween read.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐