Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books: Griselda Heppel - The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst - Book Review


In the shadows of Walton Hall a demon lurks. His name: Mephistopheles. In 1586, young John Striven struck a bargain with him in return for help against his murderous foster brother. Nice work for a demon - or it should have been. Because somehow, his plan to trap the 12-year-old went wrong. All he needs now is another soul, in similar desperation, to call on him. Enter 13 year-old Henry Fowst. A pupil at Northwell School, Henry longs to win the Northwell History Essay Prize. Exploring the school's sixteenth century library, he stumbles across the diary of a boy his own age beginning this 20th day of Januarie, 1586...Soon Henry is absorbed in John Striven's struggles with his jealous foster-brother, Thomas Walton, who, it seems, will stop at nothing to be rid of him. Then matters take a darker turn. Battling to escape his own enemy, Henry finds his life beginning to imitate John's and when the diary shows John summoning 'an Angellick Spirit' to his aid, Henry eagerly tries the same. Unfortunately, calling up Mephistopheles lands both boys in greater danger than they'd ever bargained for...

It is very pleasing to read another Matador book that deserves such a publishing pedigree. I have read so many books recently that have not cut the mustard, so to speak. However, this book really engaged me from the very first page. It is inspired by Marlowe's Doctor Faustus and is based on the idea of a man selling his soul and making a pact with the devil in exchange for knowledge and power. It's a really great concept and one that captured my instant attention. It was a joy to explore this theme with the author - anything can happen and it surely does in this strange tale of demons and darkness. 

The plot has so much to offer the reader. I personally don't think that you will regret picking up a copy and giving it a wild chance. It's mostly set in modern-day times, but it does skip back and forth to the sixteenth century. A particular part of the story that really grabbed me was the imposing building that has been used as a library over time. The brooding supernatural darkness that it created engulfed me. It will certainly leave you with a feeling that you are sitting in that same library reading your favourite scary book, whilst being overlooked by a demon or two. 

As you skip in time from the past to the present you'll need to fit together the individual pieces of each story strand together. Will the story end with Henry's downfall or will he find redemption? This is a question that you will be asking throughout the frought and dangerous adventure. 

The book is told from three view points as well as the readings of a long lost and ancient diary from 1586. This helps to connect both the characters and the times throughout history together. In fact, I thought that this aspect worked really well. 

Mephistopheles is the star of the show, in my opinion. He is really deadpan. A demon derived from German folklore, he is very malevolent; he thrives and feeds off boy's misery. Henry has many ongoing choices to make which makes the story a real thinking read for 11 year olds to get their teeth stuck into. 

There are some light-hearted moments with some slightly silly times that change the mood of the story and provide another aspect. However, it is mostly overcast based around themes of bullying, entrapment and dark magical spells. Everything is deep rooted in jealously. It will certainly keep you hooked until the very last page is turned. 

This story has a great folklore storytelling feel that is filled with intensity. You will be looking out of the corner of your eye to see whether anything is lurking beyond your vision. This is a recommended treat to read, especially around halloween time or after dark. It will certainly give you goose bumps from head to toe.
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