BooksForKidsBlog

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bellairs Reincarnated: The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost by Brad Strickland

Back on January 15, I posted some alternative fantasy writers to help readers while away the time waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to be published July 21. One of those masters of the (little g) gothic genre recommended was John Bellairs, whose three related series are deliciously dark. In the spirit of his novels, Bellairs, who died in 1991, seems to be currently channeling new novels through the hand of author Brad Strickland, under contract with the Bellairs estate to continue writing novels in Bellairs' style and featuring his three main characters. In writing eerily similar to Bellairs' distinctive voice, Strickland completed two of Bellairs' manuscripts, wrote two more fantasies from the master's outlines, and has gone on to create whole sequels on his own.

One of the Strickland's Johnny Dixon strands is The Wrath of the Grinning Ghost, in which an idyllic vacation on Live Oak Key in Florida is marred by Johnny's encounter with a fortune teller who warns of grave danger to Johnny's father from an evil force and the appearance of an old book which morphs into a sinuous and terrifying serpent before it conceals itself in Johnny's room.

Johnny is frightened but keeps the story to himself until he returns home and tells his mentor, Professor Childermass of the warning. The Prof recognizes the hand of the visible form of Horus, an ally of his from the spirit world first met in Bellairs' time-travel tale The Trolley to Yesterday. As word comes that Johnny's father lies unconscious in an Air Force hospital, Johnny and Professor Childermass realize that the prophecy is indeed working itself out and that a powerful force from the dark side, Nyarlat-Hotep, in the form of evil pirate Damon Boudron, must be defeated before Johnny's father's soul is destroyed and his body dies.

Johnny Dixon, the Professor, and Johnny's friend Fergie use the "portkey" of the mysterious book to travel to the spirit world and defeat the evil spirit in the best fantasy style, forcing the evil one to swallow liquid from the River Lethe. As with Bellairs' own writing, Strickland succeeds in creating a plot with horrifying enemies defeated through the ordinary courage and goodness of Johnny and his mentor. Professor Childermass, like Bellairs' other adult figures, provides a humorous quirkiness and comforting guidance which allay the horror of the evil which the young boy faces.

Brad Strickland continues to write Bellairesque novels in the Johnny Dixon and Lewis Barnavelt series. Fans, particularly librarians, also hope that he will turn to the Anthony Monday sequence (which begins with The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn) as well, a series which features as mentor Miss Ells, town librarian and dabbler in things magical and mysterious.

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1 Comments:


  • I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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