Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Publication Date: 7th September 2017
REVIEWED BY KIMBERLY
Charlotte Says, by Alex Bell, is the prequel to her novel, Frozen Charlotte, both of which are part of the Red Eye Series. You do not have to read both of these novels in order to enjoy them singularly, as each completely stands on its own merits.
Ironically, my only complaint with Frozen Charlotte was that I would have liked to have learned more about how the dolls came to be. In Charlotte Says, we uncover every last detail of their origin, which was, to my delight, much more horrible than I had imagined!
“I’ll tell you when it’s time to be frightened . . . “
We begin in the year of 1910, when seventeen-year-old Jemma Black arrives at the Isle of Skye in order to fill the position of Assistant Mistress at the Dunvegan School for Girls. As the girls in this school primarily had the unfortunate luck of coming from impoverished, drunken, or jailed parents, the school reminded me more of a cold, isolated, work house, than of an actual school. The details that Alex Bell paints into this novel are so complete that I could easily envision these poor, undernourished children shivering at night under their allotted threadbare sheet.
The strict disciplines of the Head Mistress struck me as uncommonly cruel and sadistic, which brought the plight of these young girls, and Miss Black, even more alive and vivid in my mind.
“. . . Dreams can’t hurt us . . . Only people can . . .”
The atmosphere at the school was not the only detailed location, however, as the scene shifted from there to Jemma’s recent past. The mansion known as Whiteladies was a place that Jemma had assisted her mother, a renowned medium, conduct séances in. The man of the house, a widower, had lost his only child in a horrible horse riding accident. The first impression we get of this imposing home is one of infinite sorrow and a single-minded obsession, as pictures of the deceased Vanessa Redwing adorned nearly every wall.
“. . . there was something a little disconcerting about having a dead girl gazing at you from every angle . . .”
At some point, Jemma’s mother marries Mr. Redwing, and the two are permanently moved in. Redwing remains obsessed with breaking through to the spirit realm in order to reconnect with his departed daughter, using her collection of Victorian Frozen Charlotte dolls as a physical link. The characterization here is simply impeccable. In these past-scenes, I could picture each and every aspect of the individuals involved. The author has fully fleshed out their personalities, motivations, and characteristics, by showing the reader scenes, instead of merely telling them. The picture in my mind, as I read the printed words, was as intense as if I was watching them unfold before me. Also, another testament to Bell’s consistency in her writing style is that the level of detail was steadily evident, no matter which time frame or scene I was reading about.
“Charlotte says don’t open the door, . . . Charlotte says there are some horrors that burn . . . “
I’ve seen some reviewers label this series as young adult, but in Alex Bell’s books, I would have to wholeheartedly disagree. Her fluid manner of conveying horrors, be they otherworldly, or the day-to-day existence of the girls at Dunvegan School, is so emotive and detailed that the situations her characters faced were all too real to envision. Combine her intense grasp of the atmosphere being set with the brutality and occasional gore, and you have a story that is certain to sustain most horror-loving adults.
“Devils are like chameleons . . . They shape themselves to fit whatever identity is presented to them.”
The very thought of the Frozen Charlotte dolls, figurines designed to replicate a foolish woman who froze to death as a result of not bundling up before going out into the frigid night, is enough to give me a shiver. However, these particular figures are so much more . . . haunting.
“. . . it was evil and it was dangerous and it was terrible but, most of all, it was bored. And it wanted to play.”
Overall, I found the very beginning to be a little slow in setting up the scene, but once it got going, it didn’t let up. The horrors, both human and nonhuman, were interwoven so well that at times I wouldn’t have been able to say which one was the worse. A great addition to the Red Eye series, and another hit from author, Alex Bell.
“Sometimes you can’t win if you play nice.”
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The much-anticipated prequel to the bestselling FROZEN CHARLOTTE, a Zoella Book Club title in Autumn 2016.
Following the death of her mother in a terrible fire, Jemima flees to the remote Isle of Skye, to take up a job at a school for girls. There she finds herself tormented by the mystery of what really happened that night.
Then Jemima receives a box of Frozen Charlotte dolls from a mystery sender and she begins to remember – a séance with the dolls, a violent argument with her step-father and the inferno that destroyed their home. And when it seems that the dolls are triggering a series of accidents at the school, Jemima realizes she must stop the demonic spirits possessing the dolls – whatever it takes.
Alex Bell was born in 1986. She always wanted to be a writer but had several different back-up plans to ensure she didn’t end up in the poor house first. For some years these ranged from dolphin trainer to animal shelter vet but then, at fifteen, she had an epiphany involving John and Robert Kennedy and decided to become a lawyer instead.
To that end she eagerly started a Law Degree only to find it so boring that she was at a very real risk of going completely insane. To mitigate this, she started writing again. The second book got her an agent with Carolyn Whitaker of London Independent Books but, unfortunately, not a publisher. The third book, written during her first summer holidays off from university, found a home with Gollancz. The Ninth Circle came out in April 2008 with possibly the most beautiful cover ever created (matched only by her second book, Jasmyn).
Not one to learn from past experience, Alex started the Legal Practice Course in London. There she met some great people and had a lot of fun messing about during lessons that were clearly meant to be extremely solemn affairs. Thankfully, she dropped out just before the point where all students must submit to the personality-removing process that is a compulsory part of being an esteemed member of the legal profession.
Now she happily dwells in an entirely make-believe world of blood, death, madness, murder and mayhem. The doctors have advised that it is best not to disturb her, for she appears to be happy there.
And for more about Alex, visit her site, or find her on social media: