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Chris Priestley

To say I’ve been highly anticipating the release of Freeze is an understatement. I was recommended Chris’s previous Barrington Stoke novella Seven Ghosts on Twitter and I can honestly say it’s one of the best, most genuinely spooky set of ‘stories within a story’ I’ve ever read. So when I was emailed the press release for Freeze, I was counting down the days until I could devour it.

Chris is The Godfather of ghost stories and returns with another of his thrilling trademark nested story collections, complete with creepy illustrations. Once you start reading believe me, you won’t be able to stop. This pacey, plot-driven novella is perfect for children and teens who need immediacy in their reading. Each short chapter is packed full of thrills and chills and is deliciously scary.

Maya and her classmates Tomas, Carla and Jason are asked to write creepy stories with a winter theme. Just as the lesson is about to begin, a mysterious hooded figure appears at the library door. The silver coated stranger is allocated a seat next to Maya and the temperature and tone in the classroom literally turns to ice.

The children come up with some brilliant ideas, including a spine-tingling story about sinister snowmen and a frightening tale of rising floodwaters that recede to uncover long-buried bodies. In another of the eerie offerings, ghostly children pour from a derelict factory and take to the ice on a frozen canal, but all the time, the girl in the silver coat gives Maya a strong feeling of unease.

The supply teacher discourages the pupils to use names in their stories and simply call their characters ‘the four friends.’ When each of the stories is read out, the tension builds as Maya finds that she and her friends feature in each of the frightening tales. Everything starts to feel a bit too real and it seems the friends are set to meet a chilling demise.

When ‘Winter’ the girl in the silver coat stands up to read the last and most terrifying tale of the day, the light outside dims and snowflakes swirl. Everything begins to freeze and in a fit of sheer fright, Maya tears the pages from her hands…

It’s as if a spell has been broken; the deathly coldness is gone from the library and so is the girl in the silver coat. Carla, Tomos and Jason have no recollection of her – was she even there at all? Maya convinces the four friends to search the school grounds, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost girl. But the nightmare isn’t over; winter always returns…

Freeze is published on the 2nd September by Barrington Stoke.

If you’ve not read Seven Ghosts, I cannot recommend it enough! Both books are an absolute must for spooky season.

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for the advance review copy.

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