Wednesday 30 August 2023

The Stars Did Wander Darkling

The Stars Did Wander Darkling by Colin Meloy (Walker Books Australia) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN: 9781760657192

Reviewed by Kellie Nissen

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story, told around the fire at school camp? Perhaps the story features strange and evil ageless creatures … or perhaps the local ‘haunted house’ with its long history of weird happenings?

One story too many and suddenly everything around you takes on a sinister tone – the random coin dropped at your front door; the stranger in the brown suit who seems to be staring at you; the sound of wood being chopped in the middle of the night …

Archie Coombes ‘knows’ none of this is real and tells himself its probably his overactive imagination fuelled by too many horror movies. So – why did the penny appear back on his doormat after he’d kicked it away? Why is the brown-suited man still standing there? And what do the visions his friend Oliver keeps having mean?

What’s more – why has all this only started happening since his father’s construction company unwittingly opened up a hidden cave system in the cliffside under the old Langdon house? Cue haunted happenings!

Archie’s most pressing issue, however, is the bombshell that his best mate, Chris, is moving away from Seaham – just as they’re about to start high school – so his focus is on enjoying their last summer together.

Determined to ignore the ‘weirdness’ going on around them, Archie is looking forward to the ‘adult-free’ camping trip he has planned with friends Chris, Oliver and Athena but, nothing ever goes to plan, and it quickly becomes too weird – and too dangerous – to ignore all the signs.

Colin Meloy – who may be known to readers for his Wildwood Chronicles series – has crafted an intricate plot, with twists and turns, red herrings and time slips, that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat and wanting to read just one more page.

Woven into Archie’s story is another sinister sub-plot whereby the reader is kept aware of the background happenings of ‘the brown-suited men’ – Lugg, Wart and Toff – who appear to have been awakened by the construction blunder and are now on a mission to find an ‘item’ that will bring them great glory. Unfortunately, it will also bring ruination to the small seaside village and all its residents.

This mid-grade novel will appeal to readers who love things that go bump in the night but may be a little too scary for some younger readers. Otherwise, readers of all ages, mid-grade and beyond, will enjoy piecing together the clues along with Archie and his mates.

Personally, I love a good thriller as much as the next person, but for me, the build-up to the main action seemed a little laboured in some places. However, the ending was action-packed, albeit a teensy bit unsatisfying for readers who don’t like an open conclusion. Perhaps this paved the way for a sequel to The Stars Did Wander Darkling, or perhaps even a new series – as I’m sure there are more adventures to be had by this foursome.


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