The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

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The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Stunning take on Dickens's classic Christmas story which is a must-read whatever your age.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408854136

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Teenage Sam and his little sister Lizzie are starving on the streets of London, which is gripped by terrible cold. Asking an old businessman for money, a man who looks at them with such sheer contempt that Sam's heart fills with hate. He swears that he will seek vengeance and rob the old man, not caring whether his victim will live or die. But before he can do so, a strange spirit appears to him, and warns him about the terrible path he will put himself on with this violent act. Can Sam resist the temptation to gain revenge? Several more spirits show him the possible consequences of his action, as we see Dickens's classic A Christmas Carol from a new viewpoint.

I love A Christmas Carol so picked this up with a mixture of excitement and apprehension (not helped by me somehow having never read a Chris Priestley book before.) I wanted it to be really good, but was worried it would feel like a pale imitation of the Dickens classic. Nothing could be further from the truth! Shifting the point of view to follow two orphans who are the subjects of Scrooge's disdain, we see familiar events through a different lens. It's a fascinating treatment of an enduring classic which works because Priestley captures the existing characters so well and introduces a pair of brilliant new ones in Sam and Lizzie. It's a short, quick read - it took me perhaps three quarters of an hour - but there's some nice bonus content in the shape of a Chris Priestley piece on A Christmas Carol, and another on adaptations of it, as well as a preview of Priestley's The Dead Of Night. Despite its brevity, Priestley brings his characters to life superbly and made me care a lot about them in a short space of time.

It's also one that I think would be well worth rereading - I can see this ending up as a companion to the Dickens original on shelves, as something you can go back to every Christmas! Even though it's aimed at children, I think there's a huge amount here to love for people of all ages, particularly fans of the original story.

Anyone who hasn't read the original should definitely get it as soon as possible! It's part of the beautiful The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens.

The ultimate Christmas read for children, for me, is The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper - the title book, second in the sequence, is set around the Christmas period and Cooper captures the winter atmosphere brilliantly. (Oh, and it's also one of my all time favourite series!)

Buy The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley at

Buy The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last of the Spirits by Chris Priestley at


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