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on 29 October 2010
I am not easily scared. There are very few books that can keep me awake at night through terror. With it's deliciously spine-chilling story, The Dead Of Winter managed that and had me on edge throughout.

Young Michael has lost both his parents and faces orphan hood in Victorian London, but on the day of his mother's funeral a surprise benefactor is revealed. Michael must go and spend Christmas in his new guardians home, the formidable Hawton Mere. Nervous to meet his new guardian, Sir Stephen, Michael's apprehension soon turns to terror as he approaches Hawton Mere in a carriage late at night and sees a ghostly woman in the marshes surrounding the stately home. Once inside his fear isn't abated as he finds Sir Stephen on the edge of insanity and dark secrets lurking in every shadow.

I love a gothic ghost story. There's nothing better than slipping back into an eerie past and being scared out of your wits. The Dead Of Winter is no disappointment and is gripping throughout.
In a book of this kind perhaps the most important character is the setting itself, and Hawton Mere is a fantastic, creepy mansion harbouring all kinds of secrets. Surrounded by cold dark marshes, Priestly truly sets the scene for a terrifying ghost story in this cold and unforgiving home. The descriptions of the surrounding areas are vivid and I could easily picture it while reading the book.

The characters are also brilliantly crafted and very much of their time. From the mad aristocratic guardian, lurking in every shadow and dripping secrets, to the fiercely loyal servants refusing to abandon the family that has seen such tragedy they are exactly what you want from this genre. Sir Stephen's sister Charlotte adds a mysterious and complex dimension as you wonder throughout what her role truly is-friend or foe. The language used is authentic and formal as you would expect, but still manages to be incredibly readable and gripping. Rather than alienate, it sucks you right in and you'll feel you've slipped back in time yourself as you read this book.

The Dead Of Winter is a hugely atmospheric book and best read curled up in front of the fire on a dark, windy night. It isn't a long book and at just over 200 pages is one you will devour in one sitting. I literally couldn't put it down and had that thrilling edge of your seat feeling throughout with every creak and groan in the house having me jump out of my skin. It's my favourite kind of horror, suggestive, atmospheric and sinister without being graphic. I'd recommend this book to anyone of any age from Eleven years old who enjoys a good gothic ghost story and especially to reluctant readers as I'm certain even they won't be able to resist this devilishly delicious tale of horror.
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VINE VOICEon 12 November 2010
Priestley is an accomplished author and illustrator of children's books, fiction and non-fiction. The past couple of years, he has specialised in horror stories for children. He's written a series called Tales of Terror which have been well-received.

The cover of his latest novel is brilliant - what you can't see on the web is all the silver highlighting on the ice crystals. Inside, The Dead of Winter is a Gothic spine-chiller that is absolutely classic in its scope. The tale is recounted by the adult Michael Vyner - a boy who was orphaned when his mother dies, and is sent to live with his guardian in a large and creepy moated manor house in the East Anglian fens. His guardian is Sir Stephen Clarendon - a rich man whom Michael's father had died protecting during the British Empire's fighting in Afghanistan. Clarendon had ever since looked after Michael's family from afar.

Michael is not happy, but sets off towards Hawton Mere with Mr Jerwood, Sir Stephen's lawyer. As they near the house Michael sees a distressed woman in a white shift on the side of the road, but when they stop the carriage she is nowhere to be seen. They arrive at the house and Michael waits in the hall ...

"There was a huge mirror there, with a gold frame. The frame gilt was missing here and there and the mirror pockmarked about the outer edges. It was rather like gazing into a frozen pool.
`I was terrified of that mirror as a child,' said a voice behind me.
I turned to see a tall, thin man. He was dressed all in black and was silhouetted against the candlelight. The effect was so strange that I stepped back, more than a little afraid. a huge wolfhound edged forward, head down, growling.
`Clarence,' said the man, as though to a child. `Is that any way to greet a visitor?'
But, alarming though the wolfhound was, I saw very quickly that it was not me he was growling at, but the mirror behind me.
`I am your guardian, Michael,' said the man, holding out a hand. `Sir Stephen Clarendon. I am very pleased to meet you.'
As he said these words he stepped into the light and I had my first glimpse of the man I had heard so much about and in whose hands my fate now rested."

Michael's sense of unease is not allayed upon meeting Sir Stephen and his sister Charlotte. Sir Stephen is clearly rather mad. and the house is huge, dark and full of secrets. As the tale goes on, more and more creepy events occur as Michael begins to find out some of the history. I'm not going to tell any more, as that would spoil things, but Priestley ups the tension all the time until the big climax where all becomes clear. If I had read this book on my own as a child, it would have creeped me out (as they say nowadays). As an adult, I really enjoyed it, and I can imagine it being a fantastic book to read out loud to brave older children, and it would make a good Christmas present for those of a strong disposition. Priestley seems to have found a niche as the Susan Hill equivalent for older kids and I'd like to read the Tales of Terror too.
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on 25 September 2010
The Dead of Winter is a creepy story perfect for those readers with an interest in things that go bump in the night. It'll keep you on the edge of your seat while you wonder what will happen next, and uses darkness and tension to its advantage. Michael is a young boy spending his Christmas at Hawton Mere country House, with Sir Stephen and his staff. There's much more to the house than meets the eye, and Michael soon learns the sinister secrets of the past that still haunt the house and its inhabitants.

Chris Priestley writes in a fantastic style, which makes it clear he loves the macabre. Rather than choose a world of gore and physical horror, he uses a much more subtle approach, including flickering lights, strange noises and terrifying apparitions. I find that this approach to horror has more of an impact on me as a reader, as creating a truly scary scene involves a lot more than just blood and violence. An eerie ambiance and tense surroundings creep me out more than severed heads and blood-curdling screams, and The Dead of Winter successfully uses a historical setting to emphasise just how ominous an old house can be.

It did take me a good few chapters to fully get into The Dead of Winter, but once the mystery of Hawton Mere began to unravel, Michael's story drew me in and wouldn't let go until I knew the outcome. Priestly weaves a clever tale that spans decades, and keeps you guessing right until the end. As everything starts to fit into place, you'll find yourself recalling clues you missed previously, and thinking "A-ha!" when you get to the final revelations.

If you're a fan of horror but don't like visual gore and sickening descriptions, The Dead of Winter might just be for you. It's more on the sophisticated side, taking age-old understated horror conventions and using them to tell a twisted story of family secrets and echoes of the past.

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VINE VOICEon 9 October 2010
This book was lovely quick read and brilliantly unique. Set in the victorian era this book followed the story of a recently orphaned young boy who suddenly found that he had been made the ward of an aristocratic man who lived in a creepy house in East Anglia where he has been summoned to spend Christmas with.

The best thing about this book was that it was incredibly uninque in its premise and I don't think I've read anything quite like it. I enjoyed the setting of the Victorian era and loved how the author had written in a style which was in keeping with the time in which it was set. In fact I think the time setting made it even more creepy.

You begin the story not knowing quite what was going on while feeling for the main character Michael having just lost his mother and then been forced to go and stay in a place he doesn;t know with people he doesn't know. As things start to happen you don;t quite know what to believe and don't know whether things are happening or whether they are in Michael's mind.

As the story carries on you begin to find more out about the house where he is staying and the faily he is staying with. All the characters you met are wonderfully written and the plot twists and turns brilliantly as you get closer to the end. There were certainly scenes which were very chilling and creepy as the mystery untangled. I must say I didn't quite see where the book was going and I definately didn't see the final outcome.

A fab book which will creep you out and keep you guessing to the very end.
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on 26 January 2014
I Chose this rating as the item was as ordered and as how I expected
delivery was as stated when ordered
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on 6 November 2010
Michael Vyner's Mother has just died. After meeting a lawyer of one of his Mother's friends he is told that he will now live with Sir Stephen Clarendon, the owner of Hawton Mere, a sinister looking house with sinister secrets. Will Michael solve the mysteries of the Gothic house before it kills him?

As long as you don't expect any more than a simple Gothic ghost story from this book then you'll get exactly that. It wasn't brilliantly thought out but it was well written and pulls you straight into the story. It's a quick afternoon read, only took me about an hour to read it. There's no mention of a year or of Michael's age on this, which I found annoying. I'd prefer to know. The idea that Michael was a child so no-one believed him when he said he saw someone in the road (amongst other things) felt really overdone and was rather annoying too.
Parts of this book reminded me of Jane Eyre (big spooky house in the middle of nowhere and strange sounds coming from the walls?) and it certainly has the feel of it. The writing is very rich, Gothic and old fashioned with complimented this story perfectly. The cover, however is a confusing one. The illustration suggests a 10-14 age range, with a cute skull and shiny border but the writing is very Gothic and creepy. I think 13+ readers would enjoy it.
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VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 2 March 2011
The Dead of Winter is a children's book, aimed at 10-15 year olds, which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It''s more of a novella than a novel although I refuse to get into literary debate about the differences between short stories, novelettes (?) and novellas - basically it is a story which one could easily read in one sitting.

Back to the story...it is Victorian London and young Michael Vyner, recently orphaned, is sent to spend the Christmas holidays with his guardian Sir Stephen who lives in an isolated, desolate country house. En route to Hawton Mere, Michael sees the ghostly figure of a woman as they grow closer to their destination but no one else shares his horrific vision. What ensues is a gothic ghost story which has echoes of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black, M R James, The Turn of the Screw and other eerie stories which crank up the tension subtley but surely.

The result is a supremely spooky story which will keep the reader enthralled right up to the closing pages - highly recommended for all young readers and indeed those young at heart who appreciate their chills being served in a subtle, sophisticated way rather than having blood and gore thrown on their plate...
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on 5 April 2011
Imagine if Le Fanu had tried to write for a YA market and he might have produced something like The Dead of Winter. I'm sure Chris Priestley would cite him as one of his primary influences, along with others like Elizabeth Gaskell. Her short 'The Old Nurse's Story' springs to mind quite strongly. The book, more a novella, is artfully written, perfectly invoking the Victorian setting that uses as much Gothic imagery and motifs as it can possibly pack into the page count. Michael Vyner is a young orphan, who becomes the ward of a rich man whose life was saved by the boy's late father. Reluctantly he agrees to spend Christmas at his sprawling mansion. What is it about ghost stories and Christmas? I blame Dickens - no, I blame the Victorians. Now I have to read every ghost story with the nagging compulsion that I should have saved it for Christmas. This one is told in the first person (what other form would suffice?) by the adult version of the boy, writing an account of that fateful Christmas. The mystery is too slight though for a book of this length. The atmosphere is well maintained but there is not really enough complexity to the plot to make the conclusion anything other than expected.
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on 11 January 2012
I have just finished reading The Dead of Winter, and I still don't want to turn the light off and go to sleep!

Despite being aimed at children, it had me on edge throughout and is genuinely creepy. Not scary and gory, just creepy - but that is more what horror is about, what you don't read. It also deals with some mature subjects - the story begins at the narrator's mother's funeral and him being packed off to his mentally instable guardian, who lives in a haunted castle in the middle of nowhere - if it wasn't for the respite of the friendly servants I don't think I would have been able to finish the book!

Very well written, and definitely not just for children!
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on 30 January 2012
Dreary, contrived, predictable, and trots out every cliché in the 'ones to avoid' handbook. I stuck with it in the hope that it would improve, but it really didn't, and the final disappointment was the cop-out ending. The most interesting thing was the author's additional pieces on writing at the end, but I do wish he'd practiced what he preached. For genuine suspense, chills, and stories that follow you in the dark, go to the authors he cites - Poe, Shirley Jackson and especially the master of this genre, M.R. James. Or another recent work which imaginatively and successfully takes up the James model and fashions new, original and genuinely scary things with it - Michelle Paver's 'Dark Matter'.
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