Review Blog

Feb 03 2011

The school of night : Demon storm by Justin Richards

cover image

Faber, 2010. ISBN 978 0571245086.
Suggested reading age 13. Samantha and Ben Foundling are orphaned siblings who reside at a children's home following a series of unsuccessful placements with foster families. Samantha has a paranormal gift, being able to observe spirits of dead people and despite her reticence to speak of the matter, Ben is aware that she is conscious of troubling presences which he cannot see.
A mysterious Mr. Knight conducts a specific test on those children noticed by his agents working in the community and it is in this fashion that Samantha comes to his attention. Suddenly Samantha disappears and cannot be located, except on the occasion of Ben's birthday when she honours a pact made previously with him when they promised to observe this special event. Sadly for Ben, their time together is fleeting and Samantha reveals nothing, causing him to commence a determined search which leads him to stumble across the 'School of night'.
In this institution, children possessing powers to detect evil and threatening spirits are trained to control and overpower them for the benefit of the wider community. Accordingly, Knight and his teachers are provided with discrete assistance by government, the military and religious figures, however this help is insufficient to repel a determined attack by hundreds of demons summoned by the evil Carstairs Endeavour.
Resident pupils at the school of night have certain skills, senses and capacities which are developed by their tutors. Unfortunately, as Ben has no special powers, having gained access by deception in the search for his sister, it transpires that he must utilise intelligence and technology to support his fellows in their battle.
Justin Richards has compiled a horror story which will appeal to younger readers, founded upon a reasonable plot involving a range of solid characters.
Magical elements within the story are limited beyond the presence of supernatural spirits and readers may be reassured that this is no shoddy imitation of the Harry Potter concept.
Teenagers will enjoy this story and I was gratified that this author demonstrated a capacity to work within the horror genre whilst refraining from presenting repugnant terror, violence or the extremely grotesque as a substitute for an imaginative story line. Readers will eagerly follow Ben in his quest to be reunited with his sister and are likely to seek the next title in the series Creeping terror.
Rob Welsh

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