Gloom Town is a delightfully creepy novel from a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner imbued with magic and seafaring mythology. Lemony Snicket and Jessica Townsend meet Greenglass House, with a hint of Edward Gorey thrown in.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, I received a free copy of this book. I was not required to review and all opinions are mine. This post contains links from which I may make a commission if you make a purchase.
by Ronald L. Smith
Formats: eBook & Hardcover
Price: $9.99 & $16.99
Publication Date: 02/11/2020
When twelve-year-old Rory applies for a job at a spooky old mansion in his gloomy seaside town, he finds the owner, Lord Foxglove, odd and unpleasant. But he and his mom need the money, so he takes the job anyway. Rory soon finds out that his new boss is not just strange, he’s not even human—and he’s trying to steal the townspeople’s shadows. Together, Rory and his friend Isabella set out to uncover exactly what Foxglove and his otherworldly accomplices are planning and devise a strategy to defeat them. But can two kids defeat a group of ancient evil beings who are determined to take over the world?
My review of Gloom Town
There are many things which I enjoyed about Gloom Town. The main characters are well fleshed out, and the secondary characters (like Rory’s mom’s friends) are a colorful lot. I like it when secondary characters are quirky and not just in a book for “fillers.”
Rory’s strength of character makes him one which I hope the children who read this book will want to emulate. He knows he and his mom are in trouble financially. His mother works two jobs, so Rory takes the initiative to find a job to help out. However, his job is less than desirable, and if he’d read the contract carefully, he may have saved himself a lot of grief. But then we wouldn’t have this story either!
Though I enjoyed the story as a whole, it took me a while to get through the first third of the book. Yes, important events occur within that section of the story, but I just felt like it dragged a bit. The rest of the book moved much faster and was more exciting. Several elements in Gloom Town are very dark. Rory’s friend Izzy is a witch as is her mother, and I have no problem with that. What I did find a bit disturbing happen during the last “action sequence” (for lack of a better term and without giving spoilers). If you have a sensitive middle grade student, you might want to read this first. You can decide if you think they can handle it.
I give the book a little over 3 stars. I’d give it 4 had I not (as an adult) been disturbed by the dark elements in the story.
About the author
Ronald L. Smith is the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award-winning author of Hoodoo, The Mesmerist, The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away, Gloom Town, and Black Panther: The Young Prince. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.