________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 38 . . . . June 1, 2012


Eldritch Manor.

Kim Thompson.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn, 2012.
176 pp., trade pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-1-4597-0354-4.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Janet M. Johnson.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.



Wilma herself felt uncommonly adventurous. Especially because of the secret motivation behind her plan B, the posters were really just a way to get another look at the old house by the park. Willa was going to get inside and try to find out more about its inhabitants. She felt excited and nervous at the same time. It was like real detective work! It might even be dangerous. Well, probably not very dangerous. After all, it was just a bunch of little old ladies.

Eldritch Manor is a fast paced adventure story told in the style of enchanted realism, a style which is fun and very popular with young readers today. Thompson includes characters from mythology, prehistory and faerie, such as brownies, Queen Mab, a sphinx, a dragon and a dinosaur in her story, but the author's serious and matter-of-fact tone as well as setting provide the reader with a secure structure to enable the suspension of disbelief. As well, all the residents of the Manor behave as expected for their kind and personality, and this consistency again assists the reader to imagine the story as it unfolds.

      Furthermore, Eldritch Manor is a fast paced adventure fantasy in which a plucky 12-year-old human, Willa Fuller, takes on the job as housekeeper for the elderly residents of Eldritch Manor when their house staff leaves. Willa gets this job after her mother tells her to find a summer job as she won't be visiting her grandfather at the seaside this summer. The reader will find Willa's mother's attitude not very sympathetic, and her explanation for this departure from Willa's normal summer routine is not very well explained and it is left up to Willa to figure out why. A less imaginative child reader might find it very illogical for a girl of that age to be expected to get a summer job, especially one in which she has to go door to door. This job, however, serves as a means to take Wilma to the house where she meets several of the residents.

      Gradually, Willa learns the secrets of the elderly inhabitants of the house, and, while doing so, the reader is given a very small clue that somehow Willa and Bella are related. Bella is a mermaid who is confined to a wheel chair. Although by the end of the book, the reader learns that Bella is Willa's grandmother, there is very little explanation in the body of the story. Unfortunately, this is not explained, and some readers will wonder what happened to Bella and Willa's grandfather. This is a bit of a mystery which leaves the reader to think about through the book.

"But of course you know all about it already, don't you? Don't you? She hissed at Willa, making her jump. "No, I don't know what you mean!" Willa protested, shrinking back from her.

Angry as she was, there was a tear in Belle's eye as she gripped the wheels of her chair and rolled out of the room. Willa was left behind, alone and utterly confused.

      A good adventure should be believable, logical and consistent in action, setting, plot and characterization. For the most part, Eldritch Manor succeeds in doing so in spite of such a varied mixture of supernatural beings and one extinct mammal. Most of the action in Eldritch Manor takes place in a great battle involving an evil entity who wants control over a device that allows the inhabitants to live in one time and place. Showing great bravery, Willa and the others win the battle and save the world.

      Eldritch Manor would appeal to the imaginative middle elementary age reader with an interest in mythology, fairies and magic.


Janet M. Johnson is a recently retired children's librarian who continues to teach an online course, Reader's Advisory for Children and Young Adults, at Red River College in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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