All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes

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All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes

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Category: Horror
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: All the White Spaces is an icy descent into grief, loneliness and madness at the furthest reaches of the globe. A group of explorers, trapped on the frozen Arctic tundra, must reckon with their own past and the ever growing threat of the supernatural presence lurking outside the cabin door. By the time spring arrives, what will be left of them?
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: January 2022
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 978-1789097832

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In post-WWI England, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Arctic expedition led by the famous Australis Randall. For Jonathan, this adventure represents a chance for a fresh start, and the opportunity to live life as his authentic self and true gender, without the disapproval and constraints of his parents. However, Jonathan isn't the only one fleeing the confines of his past and the shadow of the war hangs like a funeral shroud over the expedition. Guilt, mistrust and grief stalk the party and, when disaster strikes and they are forced to overwinter on land, a menacing presence waits to prey on their darkness. If Jonathan is to make it out of the Arctic winter alive, he will have to face his demons once and for all, or risk making the barren, icy landscape his tomb.

All the White Spaces is a sweeping tale of ice and darkness and the horrors that wait for us in the shadows. A sensitive exploration of gender and identity intertwines with a good old fashioned ghost story, a combination that warms the heart whilst sending chills up the spine. This is an evocative book, written so vividly by Wilkes that you feel the unforgiving polar ice seeping into your bones as you turn the pages. The characters are painfully human in a place that seeks only to destroy them; first physically, with frostbite and hunger, then psychologically, as the howling winds and the ravages of endless snow batter their meagre shelter. Finally, the hidden entity that lurks in the ice creeps closer, threatening to destroy the very marrow of them, leaving them to freeze in desolate isolation under an endless winter sky.

Wilkes has clearly done the research for this book, set in the golden age of polar exploration and, as a result, it is captivating and a thrilling read. The hardship suffered by the expedition team does make you wonder why anyone ever attempted such exploration in the first place, and it becomes clear that the folly of a few men determined to be the first to 'conquer' the arctic led to the loss of many. The horror of war is ever present, with the ghosts of those who never came home haunting those left behind. This is a novel as much about trauma as it is about the terrors that await in the darkness and with that Wilkes has created a richly multi-layered story that challenges as well as entertains.

For fans of the gothic, you could try The Winter's Child by Cassandra Parkin or to read more about the golden age of polar exploration you could try 1912: The Year the World Discovered Antarctica by Chris Turney.

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