Let’s drift a little bit from the core of Urban Fantasy into a dark, supernatural, boarding school fiction. Down a Dark Hall is getting a lot of buzz lately, because it will be released as a movie in 2018.
The novel follows a lovely young woman called Kit who’s mother is re-marrying. She is sent to the exclusive Blackwood boarding school while the newlyweds enjoy their honeymoon. She finds out, once her parents have left, that only four girls are this year’s class. The only adults are the headmistress, two teachers, a housekeeper, and a cook. All are cut off from their cell phones and other modern convenience. Then, strange things begin to happen.
Down A Dark Hall’s IMDB page reads
Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), a difficult young girl, is sent to the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School when her heated temper becomes too much for her mother to handle.
Once she arrives at Blackwood, Kit encounters eccentric headmistress Madame Duret (Uma Thurman) and meets the school’s only other students, four young women also headed down a troubled path.
While exploring the labyrinthine corridors of the school, Kit and her classmates discover that Blackwood Manor hides an age-old secret rooted in the paranormal.
Positives and Negatives
I’m not going to bother doing positives and negatives. This is a near-perfect novel. It is creepy, and it is frightening. There are supernatural elements. It has a mystery. It has a touch of girl bonding, romance, and family drama. Each has its small place.
Frankly, I will re-read this novel to remind myself how to build a scene, because it does a durn good job of keeping you reading. It is at least a four out of five for fun and a five out of five for story construction.
This isn’t a gore fest. There just isn’t any of that rot in here. This is plain scary, without the torture. It is aimed at youth, clearly, it is a girl’s boarding school. But, adults should find it a wonderful novel without the sex and gruesome death of the more adult-oriented ones.
I really like the treatment of ghosts in this novel. They apparently have a ‘well-trod path’ to Blackwood’s door. There are good ghosts and bad ghosts, but it isn’t the ghosts who are truly scary. It is adults who take advantage of helpless children to make their fortune.
You have enough clues to get the ending, but you probably won’t guess it till Kit does.
4.5 stars for a very good novel.