Colin Meloy The Stars Did Wander Darkling, Walker Books, January 2023, 330 pp., RRP $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760657192
From the multi-talented Colin Meloy, comes his fifth book for children. This one follows a group of four eleven-year-old kids in the small country town of Seaham on the coast of Oregon in the 1980s. Among them, Oliver is stricken by visions and seizures, while the others have the usual troubles and stresses of eleven-year-olds with parents and older siblings.
Their hub, or home away from home, is the video rental store where they are attracted to horror movies, and the lore of horror recounted by the knowledgeable Randy, owner of the store. But stranger things are in the offing, connected with the town’s mysterious history, the abandoned and possibly haunted house on the headland, and a move by a development company to build new seaside apartments on the ‘wild’ land of the headland. Why is it that Oliver keeps seeing a wounded zebra? Who is the figure appearing in the window of the deserted house on the headland? Why does the construction site suddenly close down when a cleft is discovered in the cliffside? What is in the hollows under there? And why are the townspeople becoming so wooden, glazed, and obsesses with opening that hole in the earth?
Randy has his ideas about it, and the kids do too, but they must fight not just the scepticism of adults but the weird behaviour of those that have become obsessed. And who are the three whiskered men in suits who seem to have stepped out of Waiting for Godot? They know something about evil, and they might, they just might be as evil as any being ever has been. How will Oliver, Chris, Athena, and Archie Coomes find out what is happening in time to save the town and its inhabitants? By the time readers reach the end of this well-written, tautly plotted tale of horror, they will be wanting not so much an answer to their questions, as a sequel that is just as compelling as this novel.
Reviewed by Kevin Brophy