Grisly Tales from Tumblewater by Bruno Vincent

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Grisly Tales from Tumblewater by Bruno Vincent

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Stefan Bachmann
Reviewed by Stefan Bachmann
Summary: An enjoyable collection of creepily atmospheric tales, that can definitely hold its own against the loads of the other Gothic kid-lit so fashionable at the moment. Apart from some weak stories early on, and an unsatisfactory ending, it's a fun little read that shouldn't be missed by fans of the sub-genre.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Macmillan's Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0330479516

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Daniel Dorey comes to the vast and decaying city of Tumblewater with high hopes. He wants to study, become a surgeon, work hard and make a better life for himself. But when the school he enrolled in turns out to be a deserted building, his money is swindled from him, and he's framed for breaking into a shop, he's ready to turn round and go back to the country. His last hope is to collect a volume of local stories for a back-alley publisher. One by one, he hunts down the tellers of these grisly tales and records their words, but it soon becomes evident that he's hiding a dark secret of his own...

The city of Tumblewater is one of those pseudo-Victorian, dark, dingy, and abysmally unhappy places that are just perfect for an exciting piece of Gothic horror. Shady characters abound, creaky houses and foggy graveyards are on every shadowy street-corner... I know, it's old, it's been done a millions times, but I just can't get tired of an evocatively-written gloomy-city story.

Tumblewater is no exception. It's a quick, creepy stories-within-a-story deal, with some fantasy thrown in for good measure, that fits right in with the current trend in children's books.

The characters are solid, the ideas quirky, and the writing sets up a great mood, bringing the grim and forbidding places of the city right off the page. Also, while the prose is not always very assured (certain passages of 'Dickensian' language are pretty affected) there's a dry sort of humour to it that is instantly endearing. Here's an example I liked particularly:

All of Tumblewater's children attended school. That is to say, parents got rid of their children each day by cramming them into a building to shout and scream for a few hours. It was, after all, a warm and relatively dry place, it seemed less likely to fall down at any moment than most other buildings in the district, and it was populated only by a few teachers who probably couldn't teach even if they tried. (pp. 28)

Lovely. But there are two reasons why this book doesn't get five stars, even though some sections do almost deserve it. The first reason is that early on, the tales are fairly weak. The back cover promises 'woefully sticky endings' which, in regard to the first three stories, apparently means 'silly and very contrived'. Especially the third story, called simply The Tongue, is ridiculous, and seems written entirely as an excuse to have its protagonists handle bucket-loads of slimy green goop. The rest of the stories offer hearty twists and plenty of shivers, especially the last one, a seriously creepy yarn about a clockmaker obsessed with building a clock that will never stop. I just wished the author had put as much thought into the first few.

My biggest complaint, however, is that the book has no definite conclusion. I don't mind cliff-hanger endings per se. I think they can be done right, and are a good way to keep up the suspense between books in a series. I do mind the money-grubbing sort, where the book just, ya know, ends without any satisfactory tigh-ups, as if it's just expected of you to buy the next entry in the series. I think that's annoying and rude, and while it didn't ruin the the book for me by any means, it's definitely reason enough to knock a star off.

Aside from those two points, though, it's a fun, fast, and enjoyable contribution to Gothic kid-lit, and definitely shouldn't be missed by fans of that sub-genre.

I'd like to thank Macmillan Children's Books for sending Bookbag a proof copy for review.

If you enjoy this sort of book, you'll love Chris Priestly's very similar Tales of Terror series. The Eyeball Collector by F E Higgins would be an alternative for more bookish readers. It isn't as scary, but has a terrific atmosphere about it, plus, its writing nails the old-fashioned style strived-for by both Tumblewater and Tales of Terror far more convincingly than either of them.

Buy Grisly Tales from Tumblewater by Bruno Vincent at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Grisly Tales from Tumblewater by Bruno Vincent at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Grisly Tales from Tumblewater by Bruno Vincent at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Grisly Tales from Tumblewater by Bruno Vincent at Amazon.com.

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