The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley

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The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Retelling of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in Priestley's wonderful Gothic style. We love the poem and we loved this creepy retelling. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408841738

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A young boy lives in a harbour town with his mother. It's a happy life, but the boy misses his father, a sailor who left for the sea a year ago and died far from home. He also dreams of the sea and of adventure. So when his uncle comes to visit, full of stories of faraway lands and treasure, he is entranced. He ignores the warning from the pilot's son. How could his uncle be the devil? And, despite his mother's tears, he follows his uncle to sea.

But his uncle is a tempestuous man and soon makes enemies of the captain and crew. Frustrated by their superstitious ways and lack of adventure, he takes his crossbow and shoots an albatross that has befriended the ship. And from that moment on, things begin to go wrong. Trapped on an enchanted ship amid an endless sheet of ice, the boy wishes nothing more than to return home. But will he?

Do you know that The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was the first "proper" poem I ever read? I was just a wee dot of a thing - far too young to properly understand it. But I had been seduced by the special copy, leatherbound with hand cut paper, that we had in our house. I might not have understood all the words, but I was transported by it and its wonder and horror. So I squealed like a silly thing when The Dead Men Stood Together arrived. I love Chris Priestley's Gothic take on things and that the current take was on the Ancient Mariner was just so darned exciting.

And I wasn't disappointed. This story is as creepy as the poem. As full of drama. As full of rage and bitterness and sorrow. And, as I've come to expect from Priestley, as elegantly written. In this version, the narrator is the mariner's nephew, an invented character, and the tale becomes a ghost story. I liked this change - it breathes some fresh life into the tale and makes this book something more than a simple prose retelling for children. But the action is the same and I felt the same horror at the picture of a becalmed painted ship upon a painted ocean and the same thirst about water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink and the same dreadful sadness at the death of a beautiful bird - and with my cross-bow, I shot the albatross.

Just as I think Chris Priestley couldn't nail this creepy stuff any better, he goes and trumps his own self. Don't miss this one. It's fandabbydozy. Really.

You should also check out Priestley's retelling of the Frankenstein story, Mister Creecher. And we loved Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, which moves from town to town; appearing with no warning, no announcements. We were also impressed by Through Dead Eyes and The Dead of Winter, both by Chris Priestley.

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Buy The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Dead Men Stood Together by Chris Priestley at


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