Publisher: Bloomsbury – To be released 15th March 2013
Earc courtesy of Netgalley & Bloomsbury
Alex joins his father on a business trip to Amsterdam. During the day he hangs out with the daughter of a family friend. They visit the usual sights but also coffee shops and flea markets off the beaten track. At one of these markets Alex spots an ancient-looking mask. Before he knows what he's doing he buys it. Later, in his hotel room, he feels compelled to put the mask on. Alex is sucked into a parallel Amsterdam, one from centuries before which begins to reveal the dark past of both the building he is staying in and the little girl who once lived there ...
This was a darkly atmospheric read that plays on your fears and the strangeness of being in a new unfamiliar city. Part of it reads like a travel guide for Amsterdam – a city I must admit has never particularly appealed to me before, but after reading this I feel like I know it and would love to see it in real life now! But despite some wonderful descriptions of the cities past and current states the main focus is on Alex, a teenage boy who has been through a lot – his mum leaving and some trouble at school.
Alex is a great character – isolated, but hoping to connect to someone. Taken out school to an unfamiliar city and then left to a strangers care he starts to learn more about the hotel he and his father are staying in – particularly the merchant and his family who’s house it was. Chris Priestley has managed to build a wonderfully dark and creepy story without any fat to the story. Every sentence and paragraph is economical but purposefully. I managed to read this whole book in one sitting and didn’t look up once as I was so engrossed in the story.
This is the first full length story by Chris that I’ve read, but he has firmly earned his place amongst the top British story tellers for children. At once classic and fresh this is a creepy but enthralling read. High recommended!
Recommended for fans of Philippa Pierce & Gillian Cross. 9 out of 10