Ghostly Goings On

So during my lunch break I set to reading The Ghost Prison by Joseph Delaney. Spoiler alert, it's a very short book and you'll still have time left.

The back of the book leaves you with a good feeling about the contents.

This is the entrance to the Witch Well and
behind that door you'd face your worst nightmare.
Don't ever go through there.

Night falls, the portcullis rises in the moonlight,
and young Billy starts his first night as a prison
guard. But this is no ordinary prison. There are
haunted cells that can't be used, whispers and
cries in the dark... and the dreaded Witch Well.
Billy is warned to stay away. But what is hiding
in the night, awaiting him?

The story itself is very atmospheric even though it's under a hundred pages. But to be honest, while I enjoyed it, I felt like it could have been a "proper novel". When I finished I got the sense of a great story but it felt like it was almost a long synopsis/introduction you'd hand to a publisher and say "so this is the book I'm thinking of writing, what do you think?"

It is incredibly difficult to classify. It doesn't read like it's made for reluctant readers [which would explain the length] and I don't think it reads for key stage two [the book is listed as 9 to 11]. A colleague read it with the thought of giving it to her grandson but she was sceptical about giving it to him and he's just started secondary school. As a short it's difficult to place, had it been a larger book I'd have said 12+. At this length I don't think it's challenging enough for the sort of readers it seems to be aimed at. I also for this reason take issue with the price, at £6.99 I don't feel like it's value for money.

What was worth the £6.99 though? The illustration by Scott M. Fischer. Bizarrely the cover is done by someone else [Daniel Pelavin] but the inside illustration is what drew me in. The sketching style, which was somewhat reminiscent of Riddell, is stunning. It breaks up the pages and adds a lot of the atmosphere to the writing. The design of the book has clearly been thought about, and during particularly harrowing moments for our main character the pages are inverted and have white writing on a black page. It is a truly stunning piece of art.

Based on that I'm honestly wishing they'd gone all out and turned this into a full graphic novel. It's so very nearly there and the quality would have been top notch if kept in this style.

It is a wonderful little book when you take in the account effort that has gone into it. The story is nice, all be it a little bit difficult to place in the market, and the art work is superb. It's a bit of a let down that it feels like a sampler.

There's a little sneak peek at the illustrations inside, I wanted to show you my favourite which is the very last illustration of the story but it unfortunately contains a spoiler.


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