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Welcome to Shadowhall Academy, where spirits haunt the school halls...


I have a confession to make. I have never gotten around to reading Phil Hickes' acclaimed series of 'Aveline Jones'. Starting with the first of his new series, I now know what I've been missing. 'Shadowhall Academy: The Whispering Walls' is spine-tinglingly creepy, darkly atmospheric and unnervingly gripping. Hickes knows just how to capture the readers' attention, wide-eyed, nerves on edge, as he weaves a tale of hauntings and history in an all girl's boarding school in the 1980s. There's an indelible quality to Hickes' writing: he knows just how to get under your skin. 

When Lilian Jones starts at creepy, cold and bewilderingly large Shadowhall Academy, she's nervous about making friends. And when her roommates tell her the school is haunted, she thinks they're just trying to scare the new girl. But then bizarre things start happening - tapping and whispers in the walls at night, tales of missing students and strange figures in the woods. Lilian discovers that not only are the school ghost stories true, but her new friends could be in danger...

What makes this horror really work is how quickly Hickes renders Shadowhall Academy a real, mysterious and creepy setting with characters that are fully-rounded and believable. Very quickly I was invested in Lilian's story and that of her new friends Serena, Marian and Angela. Their growing kinship and loyalty for each other, along with their sympathetic history teacher Mr Bullen, is the safety net in a story that builds in delicious spookiness and unnerving suspense. There is subtlety as well as outright shocks in Hickes's horror, and I loved how he teases the reader with rumours, disturbances, clues, history and then real danger. I don't want to give things away but I was totally absorbed by the tappings on the wall, the weird paintings and photographs, the creepy tomb and the giggling girls. And yet, at its heart, this is a story about friendship, sisterhood, and the bonds forged between girls in the strangest of circumstances.

'Shadowhall Academy' promises to be a standout series in the children's horror genre. I can't wait to read more.

Thank you to Usborne for my proof copy to review.

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