Savannah Grey: A Horror Story by Cliff McNish

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Savannah Grey: A Horror Story by Cliff McNish

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Beautifully written urban fantasy-come-horror story with a twist I certainly didn't see coming. Lyrical prose, great tension and wonderful creativity come together for a truly creepy story. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1842551124

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Savannah Grey is doing her best to settle into her latest foster placement - Annette is really nice; she's warm and kind and respects her adolescent charge's privacy. But Savannah has perenially itchy feet and she finds it difficult to make lasting relationships. She's never had a boyfriend and friendships are often fleeting. Nina is the only one that seems to stick around. Then her throat gets sore. Then Annette tells her that she's making odd noises at night. Savannah knows her body is changing and she's developing powers that she doesn't understand. Then the leaves start to swirl for no apparent reason and the birds to behave oddly.

And then she meets Reece, and Savannah realises she doesn't have to face things alone...

I am a big, big fan of Cliff McNish. He writes with a great and poetic intensity that speaks with enormous power to the adolescent psyche, understanding the tumult and confusion times of great change can cause. Savannah Grey, billed as a ghost story, is really a romantic horror novel as the heroine battles an age-old evil in the Ocrassa, an alien parasitic monster that has stalked the Earth ever since life began. Savannah represents Nature - the world's lifeforce, if you like, and I loved this particular pitting of good and evil. It felt Gaia-inspired to me. McNish tells the story through a double narrative; Savannah's story is interspersed with the Ocrassa's journey though Earth's history and so traditional horror blends with contemporary mores such as evolution and environmentalism.

Underlying it all though, is something that we all cling to, wherever, whenever and whoever we are - the redeeming power of love. Savannah, the central character, is coming of age, and she's afraid of the power of the change. She knows she must fight the Ocrassa but she cannot do it alone.

It's beautifully written; rhythmic, lyrical and full of delightful phrases - the Nyktomorph is a figment and framing of terror, at a moment of revelation Savannah becomes the stars of autumn and all the singing birds - and so the prose resonates, blending with its themes to stunning effect. And it's genuinely creepy too, with a twist in its tale I really didn't see coming at all, so lost was I in Savannah's internal story. I made the final page after an evening's breathless reading, and put down the book with a real sense of regret that it was all over.

Highly, highly recommended.

My thanks to the good people at Orion for sending the book.

If they like the look of Savannah Grey, I think they might also enjoy Before Wings by Beth Goobie, another slightly spiritual fantasy thriller. The Changeover by Margaret Mahy adds a supernatural element to a mystery and coming-of-age story. Helen Dunmore's Ingo series has similar intensity. Being by Kevin Brooks is much more sci-fi, but it also deals with someone who finds their body is not all they imagined it to be.

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Buy Savannah Grey: A Horror Story by Cliff McNish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Savannah Grey: A Horror Story by Cliff McNish at


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