Books & Literature

Book Review: Honour Among Ghosts, by Sean Williams

MIDDLE-GRADE: A suspenseful middle-grade fantasy full of mystery, twists and skulduggery from the author of the critically acclaimed Her Perilous Mansion.

A fun Victorian fantasy for lovers of magic, ghosts and mysteries.

Sean Williams is a multi-award-winning author who writes for all ages. He is a senior lecturer at Flinders University and is also a composer of music. Williams’ two most recent novels, Impossible Music and Her Perilous Mansion, were Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Books.

Honour Among Ghosts is set in the same world as Her Perilous Mansion but is a completely stand-alone story. This one is set in the town of Lower Rudmere. Williams went to Ireland to research the small villages and find landmarks which would help shape his new novel.

It is the story of four children: twelve-year-old Penny, whose father, a carver of headstones, has been convicted of stealing a gold cup; Colm, whose mother is the local magistrate who found Penny’s father guilty; Mab, an apprentice to a magical scribe; and Niclas, a traveller boy who lives on the streets. Penny is convinced her father is innocent and when the children discover that other things in the village have mysteriously been disappearing and ending up in other people’s homes, they decide to investigate.

The young foursome has their work cut out for them. Nobody believes them, they are worried they are seeing ghosts, and the town is in middle of one of its coldest winters ever. As readers, we can almost feel the cold wrapping around us as the children struggle through snow drifts with ice, wind, and fog all thrown into the mix.

Williams has created a town full of characters. In this small community, people swap between turning against each other and then joining forces as more information comes to light. This story is set in what feels like the Victorian era, but with a bit of magic thrown in. The children are brave and resourceful, pooling together all their resources and talents to find out the truth of the disappearances and save those they love.

We can easily imagine the huge divide between the haves and have-nots.  We are privy to the fact that ghosts may be causing the havoc, purely because of the book title, but are taken on a fun ride nonetheless.

This fantasy mystery is a quirky as Her Perilous Mansion. Tension builds as the children discover more information, but are not sure who to trust. There are many twists and turns along the way and the story never gets bogged down by too much detail.

At 319 pages, it is quite a lengthy book. It took a while to get into the main part of the story, but once things started to happen quickly, and a new character was introduced, it became harder to put the book down. Each child is very different, from their skills to their background. But they all appreciate and trust each other’s strengths and use them accordingly. The ending is quite an unexpected surprise.

Middle years readers will certainly enjoy this new offering from Sean Williams and will look forward to his next foray into the world of Lower Rudmere.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: August 2022
RRP: $16.99

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