Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School


The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School
Rating: 5/5
Buy or Borrow: Buy 
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher, Titan! 

A week after Mother found her sleeping on the ceiling, Amy Thomsett is delivered to her new school, Drearcliff Grange in Somerset. Although it looks like a regular boarding school, Amy learns that Drearcliff girls are special, the daughters of criminal masterminds, outlaw scientists and master magicians. Several of the pupils also have special gifts like Amy’s, and when one of the girls in her dormitory is abducted by a mysterious group in black hoods, Amy forms a secret, superpowered society called the Moth Club to rescue their friend. They soon discover that the Hooded Conspiracy runs through the School, and it's up to the Moth Club to get to the heart of it. 

Daaammnnn this book is SO GOOD! I'm a big Kim Newman fan, meaning I've only read Anno Dracula basically. Just gonna admit that straight away! This intrigued me because of the whole floating on the ceiling, school for the daughters of criminal masterminds etc. I immediately read that and was like SIGN ME UUUUUPPPP! 

The story starts straight away with Amy arriving at the school, no chapters of discovering the powers and faffing about. It's straight in there. In a way it kind of reminded me of St. Trinians, not entirely sure why. I think it's because all these girls and their schemes and the way things work at the school and stuff. Unlike St. Trinians this is darker, and it's kind of like a superhero origin story with the Moth Club. There's also powers and different abilities and stuff. There was just something about this that I can't really put my finger on exactly, that really reminded me of St. Trinians but maybe I'm wrong haha! I think it was the houses and the "the sporty girls, the posh girls" and so on. 

Drearcliff is a YA and it's incredibly different, I know I'm not the only one who likes books that are a little bit unique, a little bit original and so on. This book is full of originality! It's dark fantasy, and is incredibly sinister as the book goes on and the plot thickens. I loved how it started out fairly normal, but got darker and more sinister as the book went on and added the fantasy in more and more. I loved watching it build and develop, and as you read on this feeling of unease and not right-ness builds until it all comes to a head. 

I've not really read many boarding school stories, except for some Enid Blyton when I was younger, so I can't really compare it to other books out there right now other than to say it's obviously going to be very different. Like them almost, but darker....duh! That being said, adults could read this just as easily as teens and young adults. As you read you won't get the sense that it's for a younger audience with things simplified or a bit cheesy. The plot was very complex, with lots of different threads going in to it to keep you guessing. It was incredibly well written and I was never entirely sure what was going to happen next. 

I loved how it was divided in to three parts, and in the first part it was like a mystery book, trying to find their kidnapped friend. Then as you go in to the second part, it changes and there's this new girl and that's when it starts to get darker. The people who kidnapped her are still at large and you see how much more is going on, and then in part three it's like the final battle for the school. Each part is slightly different, even though the last two parts are the same main plot thread as it where. I'm really not explaining this very well! There where different stages basically! I just got the sense that I was reading stories within stories and I loved it. There genuinely where all these little stories about other girls, the teachers and events and the book was dark, but also so much fun. 

There's adventure and mystery and strange goings on and the storytelling is completely fantastic. I loved the imagery the author creates, I loved the language/writing style. Like I said, it makes everything in to a story. There's twists and turns all over the place. I was particularly partial to the story about the ship under the school, and the stories about the army manoeuvre type exercises one of their teachers has them doing as part of the Women's Auxiliary Army. The book is genuinely funny with all these moments of humour that just go so well with the darker undertones of the book. Could have done without all the ant imagery though, it made my skin crawl a bit! 

The characters where all so lively and interesting. Kali and her way of speech learned from the Americans. Amy herself and her moths and alter ego. Light Fingers and her parentage and ability. Frecks just in general, I loved her she was one of my favourites along with Amy! Then you've got the more vile characters like Gryce and her cronies determined to keep up school Spirit. The characters where one of the things that made the book so authentic. As you're reading you're remembering bits from school like "ah yes....I may not have been to a boarding school but that's bringing back some memories". 

Every single character is memorable, and they're a colourful and diverse cast of characters. Like I said, the vile characters perfectly spring in to mind as they go about their villainous ways. Then you have our crew of four, kind of like the Musketeers. THEN you have all the rest. The snitcher, Palgraive who's brain has been eaten by a maggot,  Marsh and her gills! OH and the one girl that's in every school, who makes up all these wild stories was also present! I liked how she changed when the Black Skirts arrived. Just saying! They're all very eccentric I think and I enjoyed meeting all of them and learning about their place as it where in the hierarchy of the school. Like I said there's a school snitcher, there's another one who's obsessed with a teacher, then there's one that makes people a bit forgetful. I loved learning about the different abilities. The interaction between characters is genuine and authentic and funny and it's so easy to get lost reading this book and just read and read and read. 

I loved the Moth Club, I loved how Amy's obsession with moths was explored, it was very original. The Moth Club really felt like the Musketeers and fledgling superheroes rolled in to one. When the Black Skirts came in to play, I t think the division between those with abilities and those without was done brilliantly. It all felt almost uncomfortably real and you couldn't help thinking on current affairs and past affairs although on a lesser scale. 

The book has so much detail to it, you learn about the school rules, official and unofficial and I imagine as you arrive at the school with Amy you feel just as overwhelmed as she is as all the rules become apparent. The slang and wording of the time was done perfectly, the way the teachers acted. You always had one horrific teacher, and others on varying levels. Never have I ever been to a school where all the teachers where fantastic and amazing and nice. It's not real. Drearcliff has a range which is much more authentic. The teachers themselves all had little stories to go with them that the girls discuss, and rumours and so on that was another nice little authentic detail. 

The book is set, from what I worked out, sometime in the 20's or 30's, I think 20's because I don't think it was long after the war from things that where said. I loved the setting. I loved seeing how the girls and their families where effected as well as the school and the country in general by the war and the aftermath. It was genuinely interesting to read about. Frecks Uncle in particular, he was in the Pendragon Squadron, and had this chainmail from the Lady of the Lake. I freaking LOVED that detail. But also love how it was kept real with Frecks saying he was a man of war, like, he was useful in the war but after the war he didn't really have much to do and wasn't good at much else. It was so real and so heart breaking to read that because it's what was true for a lot of people I imagine at the end of the war. I just love the detail and the stories the other girls had about their war experiences and their families, it was present everywhere. Most people who wrote a book set after the war, wouldn't mention it much. Newman takes a very authentic approach and it's just brilliant. The war and the aftermath is in the mindset of the teachers (hello army manoeuvres) and the girls I think as they go off to do battle. I just liked that it wasn't mentioned once and then swept under the rug, it was present everywhere and it was such a nice touch. As I keep saying. I'm babbling because I can't find the words I'm looking for!

SO much happens in the book. It's such a satisfying read when you come to the end. Newman teases you as well with this one little chapter that whips us forward in time. It also shows that ya know....Newman has looooaaaddsss of ideas for potential other Drearcliff books. Just saying. I wouldn't be complaining if it becomes a series, I'd be cheering. It was so brilliantly British and I want to read more about the girls and their adventures especially after the near teaser trailer Newman gives us! 

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School is a completely fantastic read. Descending father in to darkness and getting more sinister as you read on it keeps you guessing and allows you to fall in to the world completely. I'm not sure why I pictured everything in dreary tones but I did. The imagery and the setting where fantastic. Newman has a way of storytelling that makes everything in to a great story, even if it's only a tale about a teacher. The book is so authentic and so genuine and is funny as well as serious. It's such a dose of originality and I loved every page! 



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