Jennet and Ben are orphaned siblings who have been shunted from one foster home to another since their parents died because of Ben’s ability to see ghosts, until they’re taken in by an eccentric, old lady, Alice Boston, who lives in the Yorkshire town of Whitby. Not long after the children arrive, the mysterious Rowena Cooper moves into a dilapidated old house nearby and strange, sinister events start to occur.
Whitby is a wonderful setting with descriptions of the ruined abbey overlooking the town and the infamous 199 steps featuring prominently in the story, and I really appreciated how well Robin Jarvis foreshadowed events and cleverly interspersed local history and folklore from the Barguest from Bram Stoker’s Dracula and St Hilda to the collapse of the central tower of the abbey in 1830 into the story.
The Whitby Witches is full of supernatural elements from witches and ghosts to demonic hounds and other fantastic creatures, and this was a lot more thrilling, atmospheric and scary than I expected a children’s book to be – it managed to give me goosebumps and it’s a perfect tale for a dark and stormy night. My only criticism is that the story never fully explained who Rowena Cooper (or her husband) was or where she came from.
The story works well as a standalone but The Whitby Witches is actually the first in a trilogy following Miss Boston, Jennet and Ben, though only the first book seems to have been re-issued so I’ll have to track down second hand copies of the sequels because I enjoyed this so much. Have a lovely week. X