Phil Hickes first introduced readers to Aveline Jones - lover of ghosts, ghouls and all things supernatural - in September 2020. After what has seemed like an impossibly long wait for a sequel, Aveline is back in another irresistibly creepy middle-grade adventure that will put the frighteners on the bravest of souls.
Whilst not her perfect summer holiday, Aveline is excited to be spending a few days in the small village of Norton Wick as she will be able to explore an ancient stone circle that she has read about in a book.
The Witch Stones are the stuff of legend in the sleepy countryside village and Aveline is thrilled to meet the uber-cool, care-free, wildly unpredictable and mysterious Hazel who has all all sorts of secrets and stories about them. But Hazel has her own dangerous secret and Aveline needs to find out what it is before it is too late…
This is a proper spine-tingling, goose-bump inducing read for readers aged nine and up. Those who want a read that takes them out of their comfort zone, will have them watching over their shoulder and sleeping with the light on won’t want to miss this one (for those that scare easily it is one that is probably best to avoid).
Phil Hickes had me bewitched from the first page, so much so that I was unable to put it down and I read it in one rather nerve-shredding afternoon. I was partly desperate to discover what would happen next but also keen to escape the eerie village of Norton Wick and be able to get a good night’s sleep without thoughts of witchcraft, Witch Stones and witch bottles inhabiting my dreams. Held in an uneasy suspense for all two-hundred-and-fifty-six pages, it is safe to say I was completely gripped by this tension-filled and atmospheric read.
Sinister goings-on, a dangerous friendship and learning to trust your instincts are just some of the things waiting in store for Aveline in the village of Norton Wick where things are definitely not as they seem. You’ll need your protective charms at the ready as Aveline’s fascination for all things supernatural takes a rather dark and sinister turn as she finds herself engaging with the world of witchcraft in a village steeped in historical folklore and superstition. Add in tales from the past, unsettling encounters, dangerous magic, secret messages and witchcraft and even the bravest of readers will be left with racing hearts and cold chills.
Creepy and thrilling from beginning to end, Hickes will have many a reader under his spell as his compelling and bewitching story unfolds. You can never shake the feeling that everything is not quite as it should be and, just like Aveline, I had the over-whelming feeling that I was being watched - never a good thing. Adding to the mood and not doing anything to warm the chills down the spine are sinister quotes at the beginning of each chapter and haunting illustrations by Keith Robinson.
Middle-grade horror writing at its very best, just be sure not to fall under Hazel’s spell. Not for the faint-hearted.
Recommended for 9+.
With thanks to Phil Hickes and Usborne for the advanced reader copy that was received through NetGalley.