The cover of the newest middle grade title by the incredibly talented Amy Wilson, tipped early on in her career to be “the rising star of children’s fantasy”, is as eye catching as it is captivating. Lightning Falls will draw readers in from the very offset, and they will not be disappointed.
I shared the first couple of chapters with classes in Years 5 and 6 of primary school within my role as Librarian, and you could have heard a pin drop. Every single child was invested in hearing me read, and was able to recall the content we had shared afterwards. The questions the children had, the conversation, and the debate that followed has made this a highlight of my time within my career, which I have been in for this past five years.
When the story begins we are introduced to the female lead character, Valerie, and learn of how she came to live at Lightning Falls, a guest house that boasts of ghostly encounters for those brave enough to stay there.
The house is eerie in its setting, beside a river, a viaduct, and a graveyard. Alongside this, it is the antics inside that will captivate the audience, with the combination of people visiting from far and wide, and the strange an often spooky outbursts of the ghosts that call this place their home – none of which dare to visit the basement, a far too scary place for even them to venture!
Valerie has known from early on that she is different to the other spiritual inhabitants of the guest house, she has to eat for for one thing, and sleeps too – things ghosts do not tend to need to do. But there is more to Valerie then meets the eye, and it starts to become apparent when she is near the river, which is her favourite place to seek escapism from the hustle and bustle of Lightning Falls. When on one of her visits to the river she sees a shadowy figure of a young boy up on the Viaduct, and curiosity soon gets the better of her (and readers).
The sight of the river never fails to make my chest thunder; it’s awesome, and powerful, and it really doesn’t care whether we like it or not. It’s been here forever, always the same. Except tonight there’s a boy sitting at the very centre of the viaduct, legs swinging, head tilted in our direction.
It is through helping Joe that Valerie learns the truth about her true origins, which differ massively from what she has been told by the owner of Lightning Falls, Lord Rory. But learning the truth is one thing, coming to terms with it and putting things right are quite another. Valerie needs to learn who she can trust whilst she looks to put things right for everyone, including the ghoulish residents of the guest house who are in danger of losing their home. Since the day that Valerie arrived at Lord Rory’s residence she has been close to Meg, a ghost with a kind heart and a caring soul, and now more then ever the pair work together to unravel the huge mess they are all in, and face the danger that has cast a dark shadow over them.
The other characters in this book, the ghosts, have heart warming, emotion filled stories of the lives they lived before coming together at Lord Rory’s house, and as the details emerge throughout this incredible must read publication the reader will grow an affinity to each and every one of them. One of my favourites has to be Cecil, the ‘chief ghost’ of the house, who’s favourite pastime is telling tall tales of his life, and having that traditional grandad vibe about him through his overseeing everyone, willingness to retell his stories, and comforting feel to him.
Readers are in for such an incredible adventure as they accompany Valerie on her journey of discovery, which takes her beyond the Lightning Falls guest house she has always known as home, and over the viaduct to the stunningly beautiful world of Orbis. This magic filled land holds more than just the potential answers to Valerie’s questions, and introduces readers to even more characters that they will love. This is a book that children will not forget having had the pleasure of reading, and will be a firm favourite that they will be hoping the author writes additional titles in relation too in the near future. I would have devoured this book as a child, as is the case with all of Amy Wilson’s books, and I am truly envious of the newest generation of middle grade readers having access to this title in bookstores and libraries, especially as it offers such vivid scenery and locations, and inspiring characters too.
There are many tense moments in this book that will have readers captivated as they look to find out the answers to many aspects, especially as they grow to love the characters that feature throughout, and find themselves willing them to succeed, and have a happy ending. I could happily read this book over and over, and intend to continue sharing this book with new classes when the school year starts next month, and I know I will love this story all over again with each time I share it, and will be delighted to stock this title in our school library knowing multiple copies will be needed in order to fulfil demand. – Review written by Sam
When I first became a primary school librarian part of my job was to read children’s literature. I wasnt sure where to begin so I asked Sam where I should start, and she told me there were two authors I needed to read first, and Amy Wilson was one of them. So I borrowed all of her books from Sam, and I started one straight away. Sam was right, and I was completely hooked. I loved the way she was able to make me believe the characters were real, and that it was me in that situation.
So when Sam told me she had Lightning Falls I patiently waited for Sam to read it, then it was my turn.
The book took me into the world of Valerie, and after reading the first chapter I decided that this is the best book Amy Wilson has ever written, with her books exceeding expectations every time.
We follow Valerie who is so happy living with Meg, and the other ghosts, but she’s always been different to the others, and when she meets Joe she begins to wonder what the truth is.
As we read through the book we discover that everything isn’t as it seems
You go on a magical journey, we experience life as a ghost, and by the end you are left needing more to come from this incredible world Amy has created.
This is definitely one of my 2021 favourite books. – Helen