Much like us, Teenfunked reviewer Ciarán Howley loves a good ghost story and while we may be a little bit ‘off season’, this cold snap is making us want to curl up at home with a large cup of tea and a spooky tale.
Ghost stories are perfect as means of escapism. Be it around a campfire or in the dark with a torch. They are supreme as a method of totally suspending all belief and just becoming immersed in the tropes; creaking staircases, hairs standing on the back of necks, cool night air. And although initially worried about never having read any previous books in the series, The Creeping Shadow really shone as an escapist piece.
One of Stroud’s main strengths is his ability to delineate extremely in-depth characters as well as their relationships with others. Lucy Carlisle who, despite the title of the series, is the central protagonist, serves as an unreliable narrator as she often lies about her feelings. Lucy does this, not only to the people around her, but to the reader as well. Her relationships with characters are at times strained and scrupulous.
The Creeping Shadow had the ability to terrify me and also charm me at the same time. The character known as Skull, the synonymous and sentient skull in the jar, is as murderously inclined as he is hilarious. Some of the statements he comes out with, although malicious, are terribly funny. His relationship with Lucy, seeing as she is the only one who can hear him, is a real insight into his character and we see him become more human.
The world-building that must have gone into this book is also extremely impressive. I can picture the tedious and tenuous hours that have gone into creating this extremely solid universe in which ghosts walk among us and that people have to exterminate them. Although in itself sounds very familiar, Stroud has made this plot trope his own, with ghosts like Bone Man or Glimmer as well as some of the weapons and devices. The world becomes very accessible to picture in the mind which is perfect for the genre.
If I were to point out flaws within The Creeping Shadow, the most obvious one would be the slightly disjointed plot points in the book that often drag out. At times the whole thing could be a little more cohesive. The overall size of the book can perhaps account for this or maybe even the spectacular scale of the story. This however had very little impact on my enjoyment of the book and it is still a fine ghost story.
This book is a staple horror read in the 12+ age bracket that sinks its teeth into the reader, rather than the other way around. Funny, smart and deliciously scary, The Creeping Shadow has a lot to offer.