Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror turned out to be a good choice to read for my 2nd Annual October Scare Fest. It's a creepy and unsettling book that features a story within a story narrative.
Uncle Montague tells his young nephew (more like great, great nephew) chilling tales based on knick-knacks and artwork the old gentleman has in his creepy house. These stories are short and edgy, with endings that are quite disturbing (for a children's book). In short, horrible things happen to some of these kids in these stories, or they do horrible things. For that reason, I wouldn't suggest this for a child under ten (hopefully a mature ten). These stories that Uncle Montague tells are very much morality tales, in which bad children get punished and people pay for their sins. A couple don't fall into this framework, but all have pretty unsettling endings. There is one story that I found very dark indeed, and I don't think I read anything that dark when I was a kid. I don't want to spoil anyone, but let's just say that paying attention to these stories is important, because it ties into the main frame story with Uncle Montague and his young nephew.
I thought Mr. Priestley did a very good job with his descriptions of the settings in which this story takes place. They add to the eerie feel of the narrative.
Enthusiasts of Victorian/Edwardian periods will enjoy this book, because it definitely has that gothic, 19th to early 20th century appeal. The supernatural elements are prominent in these stories, making it an ideal read for this time of year, and for fans of supernatural fiction who want a shorter book to enjoy.
One detracting element for me was how abrupt most of the stories ended. Perhaps this was the writer's way of lessening the brutality and disturbing aspects of the story. However, I wish that there were smoother transitions at the ends of each story.
Because this story succeeded in providing a few hours of chills and thrills, and had very good ambience, with lots of creepy moments, shadows, and menacing elements make this a successfully atmospheric read, I give it four stars. I should warn an older reader who is very seasoned in horror that he or she might not find these stories very scary. They would classify more as a lighter read for a person who has cut his/her teeth on dark fare. However, this book strikes me as a very effective scary book for younger or light horror readers. This might even be a good book for a Halloween party for older kids, reading by flashlight, candlelight, or the fireside. And the boys and girls with a tendency to be 'bad' should pay very close attention to avoid the mistakes of the unfortunate children in these stories!
View all my reviews >>