Book Jacket


rank  Editors Pick
word count 12769
date submitted 31.03.2009
date updated 16.02.2013
genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult
classification: universal


John Booth

Old secrets emerge and evil threatens from all quarters as a brother and sister use their magical powers to investigate the disappearance of their mother.


Sharing an ancient living mansion with ghostly servants ought to be cool and some of the time it is. Living up to your family's expectations isn't so easy if you happen to be a Shaddowdon and your younger sister is incredibly smart.

Set in an alternate England where magic and science have coexisted since records began, when Tim finally decides to talk to the pretty girl he sees down by the brook he sets in motion a chain of events that will change his life forever.

Tim's mother vanished mysteriously 11 years ago and he is going on a quest to find out why. Secrets, hidden for hundreds of years, are about to be revealed. Things everyone believes to be true are about to be turned on their head.

His search will bring him face to face with evil in human and ghostly form. It will lead to death and destruction as well as the righting of many wrongs.

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HarperCollins Wrote

Children are fascinated by stories about ghosts, and ghosts are a perenially popular subject matter in children’s fiction. This means that there is a market for your book, but that you will have to work very hard to make SHADDOWDON stand up to the competition. Your writing shows flair and I thought there were lots of lively and appealing characters. There are fantastic imaginative touches – I loved that only the old gaslights work at the top of the house – and these are the kind of inventive details that need to be peppered throughout the book to make it really come to life. Overall your writing shows lots of potential and the central story is a strong one, though I think there are areas that you can really develop.

You are writing quite a timeless story and I felt that the 21st century setting wasn’t quite convincing. The contemporary setting actually felt quite incongruous to me and I wonder if the story might work better in a past setting. You wouldn’t need to give lots of historical detail but taking the story back into the early 20th century might better suit the feel of your story and writing. The contemporary references (for example, the ‘Hummer’) pulled me up each time I came across one.
Most importantly, you must perfectly pitch your story to the readers that will be most receptive to it. At the moment I think there is a slight mismatch as the subject matter will appeal to 9 – 11 year olds, but the child characters feel a little too old. Perhaps Tim, as the hero, needs to be younger. He’s very adolescent (for example, there are references to virginity). He feels particularly old in the scenes with Mary and I would suggest you avoid sexualizing her by cutting descriptions of her body shape. I think Tim needs to feel 12 at oldest so I would suggest you consider ways to make him younger. Perhaps you could get this across through his relationship with Eloise? I love the idea of a brother and sister who seem them at battle but that ultimately they’re very loyal to each other. Can you bring even more comedy and spark to their relationship and have Tim feel like the slightly annoying younger brother?

Child readers want their child heroes to be agents of their own adventures and to make things happen. They want their heroes to hatch plans and be hurled on some kind of mission. At the moment Tim and Eloise feel rather passive as they are too often simply presented with vital information that they need to know. For example, Mary tells Tim about the ghost, his mum appears to warn him and the Bishop presents the children with lots of information: it is just too easy for them. I’d urge you to have your child characters find things out for themselves as much as possible. This will also help to bring more mystery to the book as at the moment the readers are also told what they need to know, rather than discovering it.

I felt that for the readership the book was very long. Even Harry Potter started off at a much more manageable length and the word count only went up as the readers grew with the series. I felt you really needed to tighten up the narrative – I’d suggest paring back some of the long exchanges of dialogue and really focussing on what detail is essential to the story. For example, we get to know a lot of the servant characters, but do we need to? I also felt you could cut back on the exposition which often begins chapters and can sound quite clunky. Overall I do feel you need to work on making the book a pacier read and my suggestion would be that you don’t exceed 60,000 words. A small but important point: do really hone in on chapter endings so that they are as punchy as possible. Child readers love a cliffhanger!

I really enjoyed SHADDOWDON and I think that with work it could certainly be publishable. I would suggest looking at the work of writers like Eva Ibbotson who bring great vibrancy to their ghost stories but perhaps you could also look at Joseph Delaney’s SPOOK’S series as these books have the kind of pacy narrative that your readers will demand. I’d be very interested to read the book again, if you are happy to revise along these lines.

John Booth wrote 1581 days ago

This is the new version of Shaddowdon, written after the HarperCollins review

My thanks to all who put Shaddowdon on their shelves to get it a gold star.


Shubie wrote 1598 days ago

Dearest John

This sounds like a practical and constructive review - compared to others! Only you can know what advice makes sense to you and what may be in danger of destroying your vision. But the word I am focussing on is 'PUBLISHABLE'. That's the only word that matters to those of us who wish to be just that.

Very well done. Hugely proud of you and hoping you come back with whatever amendments you feel are right and get it published.

You are indeed a star writer!

Shubie xxx

T.L Tyson wrote 1598 days ago

Super exciting that you got your review.
I always want to spell review the wrong really shows how much of an crappy speller I am. Is speller a word? I digress.
The long wait was worth it, yours is by far the best one recieved. As you know, I adored your book when I first read it and, I am sure, would enjoy it immensely if you change it, rework it and do as they have suggested. The review is indepth and encouraging.
So alas it is true, good things come to those who wait. And it looks as though your reputation hasn't been tarnished by hanging out with the likes of me.
Well done, Booth!

Proud, I am.

Darius Stransky wrote 228 days ago

I don't know how I came across this little gem (must have been a magic spell eh?)

OK I'm hooked and (as Oliver Langdon might say) I will return

Stuart Wilson wrote 374 days ago

Hi John, sorry to write here I can't write on your wall!... I have a question if u don't mind... I know amazon have their 'hot new books' section, but I recall someone (I think It was u) saying any new books you upload get a presence somewhere for 30 days. If that's true can you share a link to where coz the only section I can see is top 100 'hot new books' which I doubt I'll end up in unfortunately lol.

Dylan71 wrote 894 days ago

Looks good......I'll delve into it soon!

FrancesK wrote 916 days ago

I'd have loved this when I was nine. Not just because of the glamour of living in a House with a whimsical will and ghostly servants of its own, but because Tim is lonely and a misfit. I'd have wanted him to have a bit more actual fun, though, than he has in these chapters. Don't young magicians sometimes do magic for pure fun? He seems quite serious and mature all the time. The brother sister relationship is good - lively and with a believable balance of kindess, rivalry and fighting. And I loved the notes at the beginning of each chapter [and would have loved them aged nine] because they are like little secret keys to the chapter - and the attribution gives them authority. I longed for magic to come and rescue me when I was a child. This book offers a door into a far more exciting reality, tinged with serious danger as the corporeal gheist will surely manifest soon and start preying on Tim. I read the HC review and saw 'publishable'. Absolutely. [ was drawn to read this after seeing your kind and percipient comments on the faux agent thread] - Frances.

mrsbawheed wrote 1161 days ago

Re read the book after Harper Collins recommended changes. I look forward to reading the rest of the book. Please message me if you are going to upload any more chapters.

amadeusbach wrote 1215 days ago

I know this has already been reviewed, but I thought I'd give it a glance anyway. I've read 2 chapters, and it's excellent so far. Your dialogue in particular flows well, in spite of me reading from a screen (I will always prefer reading from a thinly sliced dead tree, I'm afraid...). The fact that I don't believe in the subject matter doesn't stop me enjoying it, although I am clearly not the target audience... Very good, and worthy of the review, I think. I'll finish reading it another time. I just wanted an example of a book which has actually made the review.

PCreturned wrote 1422 days ago

Hi John,

I remember your book from last time I was on authonomy. I just looked through your HC review, and noted you've rewritten as advised. So I wanted to leave my thoughts, in case you're still editing.

I think your story is compelling and based on a topic kids will love. You hook the reader right from the 1st scene. I enjoy the familial interactions, especialy between Tim and Eloise. I love the butler and the house taking a hand to rectify Eloise's bratty behaviour. I like the way you've managed to give the house an interactive personality, and enjoyed it slamming the door into Tim's bottom at the end of chapter 1.

On the offchance you are still editing, I'm going to list a few suggestions for the 1st chapter now. Please dont think I didn't enjoy your book. I really did.

1 I'd be tempted to drop the intro sections from your "Layman's guide". If the info is needed, I'd try and weave it into the story somehow. If the info's not needed, why mention it at all? I think kids will want to get straight into your story.

2 vocab. I'm not sure exactly what age you're pitching the book at but words like "innocuous" might be problematic. I think in that example, "ordinary" or "normal" would work just as well. Actually I've another suggestion for that sentence. You write "No bigger than a matchbox, it looked innocuous enough, but the men..." Would you consider using "seems"? Seems implies something isn't quite as expected. We read "seems" and think oho this will turn out to be not as expected. How about "No bigger than a matchbox, it seemed normal, but..."?

3 I'd use more contractions in your dialogue to make it feel more real. I think it reads a little stilted on occasion.

4 I'd do a little more showing at times where you've got exposition eg "Tim had never seen a gheist..." I'd rewrite as something like "Tim shrugged. He'd never seen a gheist. Could they really be that dangerous? Were there even any of them left?"

5 some of the kids' dialogue sounds a little odd to me. eg "I told you about Mary in confidence". v formal. I can't imagine any kid saying that.

OK I'll stop bitching now. It's a good read. I can see kids enjoying it v much. I'd back it if you needed the backing. Since you don't, I'll just have to wish you the v best of luck with it. I'll cross my fingers for you and hope HC pick it up. :)


elf_friend wrote 1434 days ago


This is from a request you sent a few months ago – sorry for the delay! I’m not sure that you’re still looking for feedback but will post my notes here anyway. Congratulations on the HC review :)

I was particularly drawn in by the idea of a (sentient?) House with personality, and which parents the children just as much as (if not more than) their father, with the help of well characterised ghostly (or ghastly?) servants. Some elements, such as the long-established traditions/practises of the magicians were reminiscent of Susanna Clarke’s ‘Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell’.

My notes are as follows - apologies if I’ve misunderstood/missed anything. Suggested insertions are in square brackets.

Chapter 3
- The mention of Tim’s mother’s disappearance seems sudden and is not explained immediately. I get the impression this is deliberate, but it feels like a reference to something we should already know about, rather than new information.

Chapter 4
- ‘...three generations of Shaddowdon’s’ should be ‘Shaddowdons’. Apostrophe use needs to be checked throughout the story – use an apostrophe before the s if it’s a contraction or a possessive for a singular case (e.g. Magician’s), after the s for possessives of plurals (e.g. Magicians’), and don’t use one at all for something that’s just a plural.
- Tim’s fancy about the minus bees is quirky and a great insight into his personality.

Chapter 5
- It would be a good idea to check apostrophe use at the start of this chapter – in particular, do you mean ‘the Magician’s Council’ or ‘the Magicians’ Council’?
- A typo: ‘Eighty-five year[s] old’
- ‘Any reference to his missing wife made his father angry’ – ‘his’ refers to Tim the first time and Tim the second. How about ‘made [Harper] angry’?
- ‘while Tim opened one [of] the massive oak front doors’
- The sentence regarding Clyde and Tim is well constructed – the idea that they are the same age, in the same class, go to school together, and were never friends – but maybe it could flow better ‘They had been going to school together for over a year, and they had never been friends’ seems to imply that they’ve only known each other for a year and the ‘never ’ doesn’t quite fit with that.
- Tim could see the harassed face of Clyde’s mother [who was] sitting behind the steering wheel.
- Apostrophe usage again: Wonner’s and twoer magicians – Wonners and twoers would be fine? (Or, if it’s convention to refer to twoers as ‘twoer magicians’ then ‘wonners and twoer magicians’)
- ‘Tended to marry each other almost as a matter of course’- ‘tended’ and ‘almost’ have similar meanings, so is one of these words redundant?
- ‘As soon as Victor saw Tim, he grinned at him in derision’ – ‘he’ and ‘him’ refer to different people here sentence doesn’t flow as well as it could. ‘As soon as Victor saw Tim, he grinned in derision’ would be sufficient.
- ‘Tim felt worried[,] as Victor looked at him in the same way as his brother had done earlier. It made Tim feel nervous.’ (He feels worried and then he feels nervous in the next sentence – anyway of minimising the repetition?)
- Loath[e]
- Another section where Tim’s feelings are described repetitively: ‘...making him feel increasingly uncomfortable...Tim felt as if he was going to school with something out of place...It felt as if...’ If you wanted to avoid removing the sentences, you could spread them apart more, or even replace some words (e.g. ‘It was as if he were going to school with something out of place...’)
- ‘It could be very difficult raising magicians for someone non-magical’ – this sentence implies that the kids are being raised on behalf of someone non-magical, rather than that the raising of these kids is difficult for someone who is non-magical. This is easily fixed with a comma before ‘for’.
- ‘He had instinctively cast magic of such intensity...’ This line is associated with his clothes falling off and kids laughing, whereas if it were associated with the blindness spell it would make more sense. How about moving this line to the start of the next paragraph?

Chapter 6
- ‘a magician[’]s training’
- Careful of past and present tenses – ‘Grange manor is...Only thirty children didn’t....’
- ‘Only thirty children didn’t board at the school...’ – This sentence could come across as meaning ‘it was a school for magicians, but thirty children didn’t board there (whereas I think the intention is more like ‘only thirty of the children [who went there] didn’t board there’ or ‘all but thirty of the children boarded there’. There are numerous ways to express this – it could be worth trying to find one which flows well).
- School[’]s classroom
- Eloise’s vision doesn’t seem to be explained – she has an odd moment and talks about having a vision but it’s unclear whether she’s just had it or whether she’s talking about something Tim (but not the reader) already knows about.

Chapter 8
- Tim ‘holds Eloise’ – how did he get hold of her? Did he grab her and hold on, or put a hand on her shoulder? Holding implies that he has taken hold of her to start with (which would be the more significant action than the continued holding, given that they don’t seem all that physically close).

Chapter 9
- ‘...often glided rather than walked, he said...’ The comma in this sentence could be replaced with a semicolon or dash. Commas aren’t usually used to separate two related sentences without a conjunction.

Chapter 10
- ‘“Tim believes what he said...he would appear below me.”
“I lost my genius brother...”’ – the closing quote on the previous paragraph should be left out so that it’s still Eloise talking. Without Eloise elaborating further, this seems like an odd thing to say – Mary wouldn’t have a clue about Tim blinding people would she? Or even about what a television was?

At this point I stopped taking notes and decided to just enjoy the story. However, if you do end up making use of these suggestions it’s worth checking the remaining chapters - particularly for misplaced apostrophes.

ETA: Having now read the HarperCollins review, I wonder whether there isn’t more you could do to accommodate their suggestions - but I see you’ve submitted the new version and hope it is well received.

The only other suggestion I have is to rework some of the prose. There are well constructed segments but I felt the story was let down by awkward or confusing sentences. I believe the standard of your story as a whole is higher than some of the writing and it would be good to see more of the flowing sentences and beautiful prose you are capable of.

The world and history you have created are great strengths of this story. I find myself more interested in discovering the world than in finding out where the plot goes – though of course, I’m also interested in seeing Tim’s development as a magician and a resolution to the mysteries that are emerging. I look forward to seeing ‘Shaddowdon’ in print one day.

All the best,

Lady Midnight wrote 1475 days ago

This is an intriguing opening, with well defined characters. The narrative and dialogue are pretty much spot on, although I suggest you watch your use of adverbs. Most of these little tinkers end in ly, so when you’ve finished a chapter, I suggest doing a word search for ly and then try to find viable alternatives, if possible, for any adverbs you come across.

Change of pov: Tim had never seen a gheist in his twelve years of life. He found it difficult to believe… She was enjoying the experience…she was the only one in the room who knew the mobile phone…was recording. It’s generally frowned on these days, to ‘head hop.’

I enjoyed reading this and couldn’t really find much to nitpick, apart from the above. Good luck, backed.

SusieGulick wrote 1531 days ago

Dear John, I love that the boy & girl have supernatural powers to help them - wouldn't that be nice if we all did? :) What an adventure - it was good they still had their Dad. :) Before I began to read your book, I was prepared by your recap/pitch,which was very well done. :) Your story is good because you create interest by having short paragraphs & lots of dialogue, which makes me want to keep reading to find out what's going to happen next. I'm "backing" your book: When you back a book, it only improves the ranking of that book, not yours. However, the author whose book you are backing may decide to back your book also, in which case yes, your ranking would be improved...authonomy. :) Please "back" my TWO memoir books, "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" & my completed memoir unedited version? "Tell Me True Love Stories," which tells at the end, my illness now & 6th abusive marriage." Thanks, Susie :)
p.s. Remember: Every time you place a book on your bookshelf, your recommendation pushes the book up the rankings. And while that book sits on your bookshelf, your reputation as a talent spotter increases depending on how well that book performs. :)

Jack Hughes wrote 1556 days ago

Congratulations on your success, John. I've just had a look at Shaddowdon and it is a fantastic book. Humourous and beautifully written, brilliant characters and an intriguing premise. Best of luck with it.

Jack Hughes
"Dawn of Shadows"

Burgio wrote 1575 days ago

I didn't notice your star until I had read the first three chapters - and realized you'vre already had a pro reader look at this so really don't need any more comments. I will say I think it's a good read. A spooky mansion, inquisitive children, a mystery to solve . . . it's hard to beat. I'm adding this to my shelf even though I'm sure you're not still collecting backings. Burgio (Grain of Salt).

John Booth wrote 1581 days ago

This is the new version of Shaddowdon, written after the HarperCollins review

My thanks to all who put Shaddowdon on their shelves to get it a gold star.


Andrew Stevens wrote 1594 days ago

Just read your HC review, John. I looked at this when I was on the site last summer and I remember thinking it was one of the few books on the site with a genuine chance of getting published. Looks like HC agree!! If I was you, I'd definitely take them up on their offer of resubmitting after a bit of a rewrite. The way I see it, you've got nothing to lose. Anyway, best of luck whatever you decide and congratulations on a very classy book. A

hallyally wrote 1598 days ago

A really positive review! So pleased for you John - it sounds like they WILL be looking into publishing Shaddowdon some time in the future.

seedee wrote 1598 days ago

Good job on the review! Are you going to take them up on it? Cynthia Drew, Tabernacle

T.L Tyson wrote 1598 days ago

Super exciting that you got your review.
I always want to spell review the wrong really shows how much of an crappy speller I am. Is speller a word? I digress.
The long wait was worth it, yours is by far the best one recieved. As you know, I adored your book when I first read it and, I am sure, would enjoy it immensely if you change it, rework it and do as they have suggested. The review is indepth and encouraging.
So alas it is true, good things come to those who wait. And it looks as though your reputation hasn't been tarnished by hanging out with the likes of me.
Well done, Booth!

Proud, I am.

Shubie wrote 1598 days ago

Dearest John

This sounds like a practical and constructive review - compared to others! Only you can know what advice makes sense to you and what may be in danger of destroying your vision. But the word I am focussing on is 'PUBLISHABLE'. That's the only word that matters to those of us who wish to be just that.

Very well done. Hugely proud of you and hoping you come back with whatever amendments you feel are right and get it published.

You are indeed a star writer!

Shubie xxx

NickP wrote 1598 days ago

OOOH!!! A promise to read again. That's as good as you are likely to get, I think.

Some thoughts (mine, so safe to ignore).

Timelessness. You don't HAVE to transplant this back in time to Edwardian or Victorian times, a la Nesbit or Stroud. You could just take out Hummers and replace with quirky English classics (Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts, Bedford vans, whatever) and locate it in a sort of Harry Potter, Fifties-ish quasi-modern time. There's little modern in Harry Potter but it has got television and stuff. I suspect that "hummer" is just too American for an eccentric English ghost story.

Chopping exposition at the beginning of chapters is no problem. Upping the tension at the END of chapters will require some structural re-plotting. But maybe not that much.

Peppering the story with imaginative touches throughout. This is very hard to add too during rewrtes. You will be in editing mode. So you may just have to consider how you sprinkle and present your existing stuff.

Making Tim younger? That's the bit that you might find hardest. I wonder if Pullman would have made his characters younger and got rid of the final scene in Eden? I think (without being rude) that taking all the sex out of the book completely might take all the interest out of the book for you altogether. Cos growing up is integral to stories, in some ways.

But it's gonna be hard work and an adventure finding out.

Famlavan wrote 1602 days ago

Just checking to see what level of writing I need to achieve the desk, might as well give up now. Your use of language and sensory predicates is exquisite mixed with a great storyline – Oh well

udasmaan wrote 1614 days ago

Dear John what a wonderful start. i learned from your story and i back it with pleasure.


Wendy Sue wrote 1618 days ago

Hi John,
Let me start with minor corrections...
4th paragraph: Drowd was "a" small man (insert "a").
Oliver's first words don't sit well... "what am I going to do?" sounds too weak for him - maybe he could say something more ominous? I don't know, maybe like, "What shall I do first?"???
In the Eleven Years Later section, second sentence, I suggest changing to "might as well have been miles."
An agent once suggest to me not to use "you" phrases, and I found two in youor first chapter: "you would know he was the leader of the trio," or "you might have expected Tim to bounce off him." It's a small thing, but maybe worth changing.
Ernie asks Tim "Are you off to see that girl again?" - take out the word "out".
As for the story as a whole, I only read the 1st chapter, but I look forward to reading more. I think this is a very intriguing premise and I enjoy your writing style. :) I like the interaction between the characters and the element of mystery that pulls me in. I'll read more soon.

borealis wrote 1627 days ago

I love the ghostly servants. What original ideas. A mere quibble - somewhere you talk about a magnet when I think you mean a magnate.

There are a lot of original ideas in this book, and the opening section is very good indeed.

JLPenn wrote 1627 days ago

Fascinating! Both the short and long pitch are excellent! They beckoned me to read on, and I'm not even a fan of fantasy. I was, however, a fan as a young adult. A step outside the realm of Harry Potter - a more mature step it seems - this book should do well with its intended audience. I definitely found even myself caught up in the first chapter. Again, simply fascinating storytelling.

I'm pretty new here so I'm wondering what the star means in place of the ranking. Does it mean that your book has already been to the editor's desk? If so, I hope it went well! YA is so hot right now, and the fantasy element should push it over the top. Best of luck (if you still need it)!

DKTD1 wrote 1627 days ago

:) An author after my own cold, black, shriveled heart. Love ghosts, ghasts, geists and so on... This is cleverly written and deserves it's star! Hope to see this published. Shelved.

Eunice and Ethan

DKTD1 wrote 1627 days ago

Have your book on my watchlist for a read tomorrow, not that it needs any votes ;)
Would love it if you'd look at either of my submissions. Comment if you can and back if you like!
Eunice and Ethan

carlashmore wrote 1631 days ago

Hi John. I know this has alread made the Ed desk, but I just wanted to give it my support because it's just a fantastic read. Oh, and you seem like a great fellow in the forums. Good luck.

Colin Normanshaw wrote 1634 days ago

Love the book. Congratulations and good luck. Backed.

Jehmka wrote 1641 days ago

There's a lot of comments below...
I don't believe there's anything I can add, but I still want to say, this is an exceptionally well written story and an exciting read. Congratulations on your well deserved success.


Marie DuGar Bell wrote 1642 days ago

Congratulations! I wish you success in becoming published. Sincerely. Marie

Manolya wrote 1642 days ago

Congratulations on your Gold Star John- I am really happy for you:)
I wish you all the very best with your book.
Thank you for the help you have given me in the past, it is really appreciated.
Warm regards,
Manolya- Love in No-Man's Land

Invasive1 wrote 1642 days ago

Ghost Busters! Sorry John -- the little box and stuff brought that back (don't ever cross streams, etc.). Flashbacks are my curse. Now that all my silly drivel is out of the way (and it never really is); you're a master story teller with a wonderful buildup, and I don't usually get into this type of story, but it has so much depth and such a great premise that it promises so much further ahead. I'll keep reading as I can, John. Perfect timing; I found my old tarot decks. You've got great story telling skills. Edgar A. Poe would be proud.

MickR wrote 1642 days ago

Of all the authors who have made the shelf since I've been online, I think no one has deserved it more.
You have written a quality book, and you have helped others, myself included in working thier way up the rankings. You are a writer, and a gentleman, and an all around good person.

hkraak wrote 1642 days ago


The Pearl Edda

Becca wrote 1642 days ago

Congratulations on being selected for review!

cutley wrote 1642 days ago

And now the wait for the HC review. I have a very good feeling about that.


Growltiger wrote 1643 days ago

Though I don't usually read fantasy, this is a very clever idea. The first chapter is well written and draws the reader in. I'm interested in these people and I want to know what happens to them. Good job. Backed with pleasure.

Elizabeth Gregory
The Horse Warrior

Invasive1 wrote 1643 days ago

Damn you look like Robert Mitchem! Thanks so much for the comments, John, and I can't wait to get to this. Backed right now with a promise to read ASAP. Go get 'em mi amigo!

arias wrote 1644 days ago

I like the opening, John. This is nicely structured and easy to read and follow the storyline. The cover reminds me of Rosemary's Baby. Good stuff! Shelved.


Turnip wrote 1645 days ago

Hi John. Long awaited return read. I always say that YA fantasy is not my genre, although my daughter reads me two pages every night and I'm an avid HP fan. I don't know to what extent adult style should extend into YA. It's an immediately gripping story but you have a tendency to introduce characters with a photofit and to over-explain where the reader should be left to make their own inference about what characters have said or done.
I read the comment about the character name Ernie engendering memories of Ernie Wise (and I once saw Eric Morecambe at Luton FC), but Ernie, for me, drives the fastest milkcart in the west. Clearly YA readers won't have such middle-aged problems. On the other hand, you can't go wrong with Eloise.
All the best,
The Rise and Fall of Ger Mayes

Kevin Walter wrote 1646 days ago

Though not a huge fantasy reader, I always enjoy the creation of an entire world from the ground up. You're knowledge of the minutiae of your world is appealing - the levels of magic the children can cast, the various technologies in the house and the mixture of the arcane and futuristic, and of course the interaction between various black magicians and the conflict you're building up to between Langdon and Harper. The paradox here is that in putting so much time and effort into creating the world, you seem to be missing subtle characterizations that would make the children leap out: what they look like, differences of speech. Similarly, there could be some more description of the house and lands outside of the mystical.... the natural look of the grounds, and how a feudal house appears, the smell, the feel, the look of old oak, wooden stair cases, etc., having been invested with all this sorcery and technology.

A good read, you're on your way.

Kevin Walter

The Year of the Blue Snow

Helix wrote 1647 days ago

Dear John, not sure if I’ve read this about a year ago or not, but I’ll give it another whirl as you are nearing the winning post. It does ring a bell. Anyhow, anything I crit on isn’t me being a smart-arse, I’d just like it to be in the best shape it can be for when HC have a ganders at it.

First off. Innocuous hits me like a hammer. I think it’s too early for that word. I think it will read much better at this point to use the word harmless or innocent or another synonym. I just think it will make some readers think it’s going to be a tough novel with that in the opening paragraph. I’m not saying everyone is thick but I like to ease into a novel before any big words jump up to bite me.

Repetition of the word ‘air’ in that last sentence of the first paragraph niggles at me. Maybe you could just say: which made the drifting smoke swirl. ??? I dunno, something like that, mate.

I think you could define whose POV we’re in right from the off with more force. I guessed at Peters’ but now I’m thinking maybe you purposely didn’t use a specific POV there. If not, my error.

First chapter reads well, John. Reminds me a bit of The Spook’s Apprentice.

Chapter two.

Her long dark hair was tied into a ponytail hanging down across her back. – This reads a bit awkwardly. Maybe better as something like: Her long dark hair hung in a ponytail over her back/neck. ????

“It’s not that,” Tim flushed etc . . . Needs a full stop instead of a comma. Maybe even an ellipsis for effect?

“You take good care of yourself Tim.” Need a comma before Tim.

“A gheist can be dangerous for a young magician if he’s caught unaware.” This sentence doesn’t ring true to me. It sounds a bit staged, if you know what I mean? For one: I thought she didn’t know much about magicians and ghouls etc . . . Tim didn’t bother asking her about how she saw the gheist so wouldn’t her now saying this make him go, ‘Hang on a minute!’ ??? Also it sounds like you are setting it up that the gheist she saw will now catch him unaware. The sentence just doesn’t sound right coming from her mouth to me. It sounds like something a master would tell his apprentice.

Also the last sentence seems a bit cheesy. Sorry, lol Two kids blowing kisses doesn’t work for me. Usually young boys get flustered and embarrassed when it comes to affection.

Chapter 3

History Search? Is that a real show? I hope not. The title of it sounds a bit weird and bland when you think about things like Time Team. I think you could use a punchier title for the show even though it’s not of great importance. History search just jumps out of the prose as stale.

Overall John, this is a good read. If we are talking on a professional level, I think there is room for a little improvement here and there in terms of the impact of the prose, and also the scene goals for each character. I also feel the dialogue could be modified slightly from character to character. From how they talk I got the impression this was Edwardian/Victorian times, but then cable TV was mentioned. I think at least one of the kids should use an altered dialect, or a distinct way in which they order their words, just so they don’t all sound the same. Even if they are posh I think there is still scope for giving them each a prominent tongue. Like I say though, this is a good read and it keeps the reader entertained. I think you just have a bit more polishing and twisting to do before HC will consider it for publication.

Hope some of this is helpful.

Cheers mate, and I’ve put it on my shelf again. I’m sure I’ve backed this in the past so not sure if the vote will move you forward any, but what the hell.



samtsuji wrote 1647 days ago

I think you've got your world and characters nailed down, and it's only a matter of fleshing it out a little. I enjoy the straightforwardness of your tone, but there's little in the way of description of the characters.

In your first scene Oliver Langdon-- I think you have a great opportunity there to describe the Dr. and Oliver. What changes in a face when it's taken over by another personality? What are the differences between Oliver and Dr Langdon's expressions? Does Oliver's presence darken his eyes? Is there something different about his smile? Those sorts of things.

I think you've got something very strong here! Backed.

Jason Jawando wrote 1647 days ago

I have read the first three chapters and found them well-written and readable. You interweave the plot with description very well. The opening of the second chapter was particularly good in this respect.

There were a couple of awkward moments. Early in the first chapter you have a short paragraph that begins '"Well, well," Oliver Langdon remarked ...' This feels a little stilted. You could perhaps describe Oliver Langdon picking up the box and wondering what he should do; alternatively, you could leave it out altogether - I'm not sure that it really tells us anything.

In the second chapter you say 'The brook's water was as freezing as the air around it was chill'. This is just a long-winded way of saying 'it was cold'. I'm not sure it's a fact that really merits any fancy description, and it's fairly obvious that if the air is cold the water will be too. This information is given a couple of times over the next two paragraphs, so again you could just omit it.

These errors are relatively minor, and stand out because the rest of the book is good.

Best of luck.

Jemstone wrote 1647 days ago

Funny, strange, and highly entertaining. Backed.

Yerffej wrote 1647 days ago


As you were kind enough to comment on my book a little while ago, I thought I would reciprocate.

I am impressed by your consistent style, and good balance between narative and dialogue. I particularly like the way that your start draws the reader in. I also like the idea of the excerpts from the 'Laymans Guid to Magic': inspired! Indeed, I think it would be a good idea to have them at the head of every chapter, rather than just the first ten.

I can happily find room for this book on my bookshelf.


damaris13 wrote 1647 days ago

As a teacher of young adults, I am always on the lookout for books I would put on my shelves here at school. This is one of those books. Fantastic read! Backed 100%

Finding Letta

Linda L. wrote 1648 days ago

The mixture of what's real with what's magical reminds me of Harry Potter. I always enjoy a story that pits good versus evil. I can see why it's ranked so high. Backed!

Pia wrote 1648 days ago


Shaddowdon - a massive rambling house with dark secrets and an attitude, a place where Ghasts are grey or colourful depending on their mood, and, arghh -and know all about you. And there are the powerful evil ones. Loved the definitions from The Layman's Guide to Magic. A well formed ghast - would make a cool title, too. The writing flows well, towards a growing, creepy suspense. Can the siblings unveil and overcome what's hidden in the dark. A great read for youngsters.

Pia (Course of Mirrors)

Duncan Watt wrote 1648 days ago

Hi John ...

Finally managed to start commenting again. You have a very unusual story that has good strong central characters. the story flows well, but after six chapters, I am not sure where the plot is going. I did wonder, as the book is aimed at the YA market whether you tend to explain to much in the story.

I also noticed you have a tendency for the over use of 'had' and 'was'. I think you could certainly cut some out. Instead of 'she was standing' 'she stood' is more positive and stronger.

Chapter five might feel the benefit of a re read for there are some mistakes around paragraph 20-21 you have: He guessed that that was probably why Eloise was angry with him this morning'. and the following para you have 'had had'. These two I find clumsy.

In the sentence that starts: 'A black SUV (Ch5): 'but then level threes barely were barely'.

All in all though, it is obvious why you are on the desk and I must apologise for my pickiness. All the Best. Regards ... Duncan.