The Blurb On The Back:
Jake usually likes to stay out of trouble. But when he opens a strange box containing a severed finger, trouble comes knocking at his door. Literally. Jake has summoned a reaper to drag him to the Eternal Void (yep, it’s as deadly as it sounds) and his only option is to RUN FOR HIS LIFE!
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
12-year-old Jake lives alone with his mum in the small village of Elmbury (his dad moved out 4 months ago as his parents are getting divorced, which Jake isn’t very happy about). He leads a fairly normal life, hanging out with his best friend Sab and trying to avoid the school bullies Ryan and Liam.
One day in late October, Jake takes a short-cut home down a dark alleyway where he meets a tall, pale man in a tattered black coat and a top hat called Stiffkey who gives him a box and tells him to protect it and carry out the Embassy’s orders before disappearing, leaving only a mound of earth behind. Jake is amazed to realise that Stiffkey is a ghost and horrified when he discovers that the box contains a severed finger.
Opening the box, however, draws Jake to the attention of the Embassy of the Dead who send one of their feared Reapers to catch him and send him to the Eternal Void. Jake’s only hope is to find an old friend of Stiffkey’s who may be able to come up with a solution to his plight …
Will Mabbitt’s spooky fantasy novel for children aged 9+ (the first in a series) features some cracking illustrations by Chris Mould (I particularly liked Zorro the ghost fox) and a well-crafted plot peppered with some good jokes, interesting side characters (I especially liked Cora, a hockey stick-wielding ghost stuck inside a school cup) and a relatable main character in Jake and I would definitely check out the sequel.
Jake is an interesting and relatable character who’s sad and confused by his parents’ impending divorce and especially at how his dad is stuck living in a depressing bungalow on the farm he works at. Mabbitt gives him believable reactions to discovering his sensitivity to the presence of ghosts and his subsequent discoveries about ghosts and the Embassy. I liked the friendship that develops between him and the elderly Stiffkey and especially enjoyed the introduction of Cora, a ghost who wants to get out and see the world and maybe hit things with her hockey stick.
The worldbuilding is solid with Mabbitt conveying the bureaucracy underpinning the Embassy’s operations, the relationship between the living and the dead and the role of Undoers in helping ghosts to pass to the other side. There’s also a good sense of an over-arching story arc and the idea of a group of people out to overthrow the Embassy and remake it to reflect their beliefs and desires. Mabbitt peppers the text with humour, which offsets the more frightening ideas and images and Chris Mould’s illustrations give the characters life.
All in all there’s a lot here to keep readers aged 9+ entertained and I would definitely want to read about Jake’s next adventure.
EMBASSY OF THE DEAD was released in the United Kingdom on 14thJune 2018. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.