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'Jack Devlin and the Roman Curse' by John Clewarth is a fast-paced, spooky adventure with plenty of twists and turns, blending Roman superstitions with contemporary Yorkshire. It's a fun ride with a trio of central characters that help us keep pace with the plot, adding warmth and wit to the scares.

Jack is an ordinary boy with ordinary friends. But he is about to find himself thrown into a very extraordinary situation! When Jack’s grandfather uncovers a mysterious secret at a Roman burial site, a series of events begin which could alter the future of the world and put Jack, his parents, and his friends in grave danger. With Ekta and Zane at his side, Jack must solve his grandfather’s cryptic messages before it’s too late. Who is the crazy Queenie? Why does she travel in a high-tech bin wagon? Will Jack be able to evade the school bullies and save his parents? Or will the world fall victim to the Roman curse?

I thought it was a brilliant idea to use Roman curse tablets. Like all good scary stories, these ancient artefacts have a power that causes havoc in the present, and that combination of the unsettling ancient and the high-tech modern-day gives the book its edge. The mystery builds from its prologue with Jack and his friends following a series of complex clues to uncover the curse tablets. They dig between trees and search lockers in Leeds as the tension mounts. There's one scene that I thought was spine-chillingly realised: when Jack and his friends unleash the curse in an allotment shed. The atmosphere and electric detail John Clewarth evokes is powerful and hair-raising.


From there, all hell breaks loose, and Jack and his friends depend a lot on the arrival of the mentor figure of Queenie - an unusual shape-shifter travelling in a high-tech bin wagon! There is a good balance between humour and scares, and John Clewarth has a particular skill for revealing personality and plot through zippy, dynamic dialogue. I enjoyed the interactions between Jack, Zane and Ekta perhaps most of all. The climax is action-packed, with Jack's football skills coming in use; however, it very much felt like a 'to be continued' for a sequel rather than a completely neat ending. That being said, 'Jack Devlin and the Roman Curse' is short, packing in a lot: Roman curses, shape-shifters, dodgy organisations and high-tech surveillance! There's much for children to enjoy here.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review.


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