Cover Image: The Secret of Splint Hall

The Secret of Splint Hall

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An absolute cracker of a story to keep kids from lKS2 intrigued and on the edge of their seats. I loved sharing this with my 11yr old, it provoked lots of conversation and discussion which is always a good sign!!
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I love a spooky middle-grade and that’s what I was expecting from this mysterious looking cover. Little did I know that I was about to embark on an adventure unlike any I’d imagined.

In 1945, sisters Flora and Isobel have finally seen the back of the war. However, their home has been destroyed and their father killed, so they and their mother have gone to live with their aunt and her tyrant of a husband at Splint Hall. But something is going on at Splint Hall. Something strange and altogether not quite right. Locals seem to be avoiding them too. Can they discover the long buried secrets surrounding their family and new home?

Splint Hall cuts a threatening figure and it’s obvious that this is no ordinary house. Its size and shapes all scream danger and its master only reinforces that image. Of course, I was expecting this to be some kind of ghost story. I won’t go into what is actually going on at Splint Hall but I will say that this is definitely not a ghost story.

I loved some of the descriptions of place and the overall atmosphere that Katie Cotton created in this book. It seemed that peril was around every corner and Isobel and Flora were right to be afraid. However, being children they were also curious and determined to uncover the mystery and I definitely got caught up in that energy with them.

The Secret of Splint Hall is a unique adventure. I didn’t pre-empt the turn it was going to take in the middle at all, as there were definitely no real clues for it anywhere. The ending makes me think that the story will continue and I’d love to have some of my questions answered about the origins of the secret. So, I’ll be keeping an eye out for the sequel!
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Title: The Secret of Splint Hall
Written by: Katie Cotton
Pub Date:  3 Mar 2022
Publisher: Andersen Press
Genre: Historical Fiction | Middle Grade | Sci Fi & Fantasy
Goodreads review:

The war might be over but for Isobel, her sister Flora and their mother this is just the start of new struggle. Peter, father to the girls died in the war, not only did they lose him but also their home. The family's only choice now is to move to the country to live with their aunt and uncle in their family home, Splint Hall. Exactly why it was name such is a mystery even to their mother and aunt. Unfortunately the move is not what they expected and Mr Godfrey is not the kind of uncle they had hoped for. 

Will unearthing the secrets of their ancestral home save  the lives of thousands?! Even if it costs the girls their own?!

From the beginning it is clear that this book covers serious topics such as, death, poverty, homelessness, displacement, lies, theft and social standing.

We are aware that the girls have lost their father due to the war and that they have had to live with a neighbor. Both devastating things to happen to anyone let alone children. We can sense that they are excited and a little nervous to meet their aunt and uncle who they are to live with. 

We learn that the towns people are going without due both to rationing and the fact that Mr Godfrey does not offer food from his land. This has apparently led to stealing. 

It is worth mentioning that domestic abuse is obvious from the beginning of the book. Mr Godfrey is not kind to anyone least of all his wife.. He is a constant bully and is openly abusive to his wife, Bea,

There was a lot to love about this book. The descriptions were so vivid I almost felt claustrophobic during the parts that take place in the tunnels. I felt the emotions that I the girls were going through at each moment, even those of the adults from time to time. 

I was glad that Mr Godfrey was dealt with properly and that the domestic abuse was not allowed to continue. This book should really be a five star read. So why have I only given it 3?

As much as I loved the writing, the pacing, the characters (even ratter) not all the themes were dealt with in a positive way. 

It is unfortunate that Cotton made more than one ablitis scene. Any time injury or disability was shown in this book either or both girls reacted badly. When both girls enter their uncles office they see his wound. Later they share a few words and it leads the reader to believe the sight to be a horrifying one. When James acknowledged his leg while talking to Isobel she ignored him and looked away making it sound as if she might be sick. Then staring she asked if it hurt but showed no real interest in the answer. It seemed that though Cotton wanted there to be disability inclusion she forgot to have the characters (especially Isobel and Flora) care or have a positive attitude. Even when Simon is showing the girls some of the injuries he has sustained as a Keeper, they still expect Simon to be embarrassed by his scars. 

Another major indicator of this abilism is that dragon's blood his a magical healing solution. Heaven forbid Simon end up disabled like his father and Mr Godfrey (yes I'm being sarcastic). Had this not been the case and Cotton managed to pass these scenes in a positive light the description of the "evil" Splints may not have been so negatively impactful. There are after all several conditions that may give a person long thin limbs and long fingers. My own condition for example, Marfan syndrome causes the body to form this way.  People who have this condition are often quite tall, usually over 6 foot in fact, and are for most of their life skinny. Their or rather our, long fingers are just one of the symptoms that lead to a diagnosis. Could this be easily over looked were it not for the previous abilism, probably but in this case I think it further proves the obvious ablisim in this book. After all the name given to the baddies is in its self some what of a sign. 

Cotton missed a chance to give children a positive opinion on disability and worse, probable gave them the view that disability is something to look away from and regard as embarrassing or disgusting, which is both a shame and a missed opportunity.

There was also one plot hole I noticed. If the Splints bring warmth with them because they are from the core of the earth or hell. why then do the dragons also get warm? why then do they breath fire?

Had this book not been so problematically abilist I would hope that this was the start of a new series as that was not the case, I hope it will be a standalone and that the author learns something. If it is the first of a series I won't be reading the rest.
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Okay, first off? Just look at that cover. It’s gorgeous!

THE SECRET OF SPLINT HALL is a book of two parts. In the first, Flora and Isobel explore Splint Hall and face off with their awful uncle. There’s hints of something bigger going on — both mundane and magical — but it’s largely a period piece. The period — in the aftermath of World War 2 — is incredibility well painted, with lots of little details subtly woven through to create a setting that’s immersive, believable and vivid.

In the second half of the book, the sisters team up with two brothers who call themselves ‘keepers’ and, without giving too much away — find out what Splint Hall’s secrets really are. This part is a fast-paced adventure, exploring a network of collapsing, bomb-damaged underground caves and facing off very real dangers and some terrifying supernatural ones.

THE SECRET OF SPLINT HALL has great characters and an exciting plot. The girls are cheeky and mischievous, but good-hearted and likeable. I read through it very quickly, needing to know how they would save Splint Hall and the village from the monsters threatening it, and save their aunt from her awful husband.

A wonderful middle-grade, and I look forward to more from Katie Cotton.
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I loved this so much, I still think about it. I loved the characters, loved the setting, the loved the fantastical element, everything is just wonderful about this book. Probably one of the best middle-grade fiction books I read in a long time.
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Well firstly what a beautiful cover this book has! This alone would make me pick up this book, and then after reading the blurb, I would buy this book. It is marketed as suitable for 9-11 years, but I could see this book being suitable for a wider range of ages, especially if adults sit and read this book with a child or class setting. It is an excellent introduction to WW2 and could open discussions on rationing, evacuation, requisitioning of country houses etc. so not only a great story but educational too. 
The story does not disappoint. I loved it. The characters are well developed: I could actually see them and could also see this book as an adapted to television series. Children will love how the story develops into a great adventure and a little bit of scare factor included. This book would make a great gift or a treat for a little person to spend their pocket money on.
Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher Anderson Press and the author for the opportunity to read and review this e copy.
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The Secret of Splint Hall skillfully combines historical fiction (set just after the end of WW2) and a thrilling fantasy adventure! Told from the younger of the two sister's, Isobel's perspective, the story sees the girls moving with their mother for a 'new start' at their aunt's house, where their mother grew up. However, instead of a warm welcome, they find Mr Godfrey (the aunt's husband) is a cold, hard man and strikes fear into the household. 

Despite this, the girl's sense of fun and mischief shines through as they explore the house and gardens, finding secret doorways, an air-raid shelter with boxes, a unknown boy, blue sparks and packages delivered in the night. The adventure and fantasy elements just build and build throughout the book and it grows increasingly exciting to read until you can't put it down! 

I loved how Isobel overcome her fears of the dark through her adventure and also how the children worked together too. 

I loved this story from the beginning and feel that it would be a great novel to study as part of a continuation of the world war topic, demonstrating the consequences of the bombing and the continuation of rationing. 

**Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the opportunity to read an advanced e-copy of this book. All opinions are my own **
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I enjoyed the fact this book not only had dragons... (who doesn't love that!) But also that our main characters were two brave and strong young girls, which is not often seen in younger fantasy. 
 A younger me would have loved reading about these girls and would have felt a great connection to them.
  I found all conversation regarding the war was also described and handled very well and believable from a child's point of view.
My only issue was I felt that some of the chapters were very long when targeting at a younger audience.
  Overall a highly enjoyable read!
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I loved this book. It was warm and exciting and clever. Set just after the Second World War, Isobel and Flora must travel, with their mum, to live in her ancestral home, Splint Hall, after their own home has been bombed. The family dynamics are intricate and interesting and Mr Godfrey is instantly dislikeable. The book is an excellent mixture of family drama and fantasy - something I was not expecting. There is so much worth discussing in this book and I look forward to introducing it to my Year 6 class. There are so many different aspects to this book, it will appeal to a wide range of readers and would be great either to read for pleasure or as a class reader. I would recommend this book to confident readers from the age of 9 and it would also be enjoyed by teenagers.
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The Secret of Splint Hall is a beautifully written adventure that skilfully combines historical fiction and fantasy. Katie Cotton's setting is England just after the second world war and the heavy cloud of  loss, death and sacrifice hangs over everything. Against this setting, Isobel and Flora are uprooted from their home (lost to a bomb) and move to Splint Hall, the family home of her mother now owned by their timid, frightened aunt and cold uncle. The tension at Splint Hall is palpable and Katie Cotton writes a child eye's view of an unhappy marriage brilliantly. When Isobel's dislike of her uncle turns to suspicions that he is up to no good and she and Flora begin to ask questions of why the towns people are so hostile to them, she begins to uncover secrets long buried and embarks on an adventure that will change the fortunes of the entire family. 

It is difficult to talk too much about this book without giving away the secret, but the moment when the adventure shifts from historical to fantasy is handled so skilfully that it feels utterly right for the Hall's secret to be what it is. Katie Cotton entwines the history of the Hall, the family and the town together into a legend that feels authentic and believable. Above everything, The Secret of Splint Hall is an adventure and once Isobel and Flora discover the Hall's secret they are plunged into an adventure which will have the reader on the edge of their seats. 
The Secret of Splint Hall is, by turns, exciting, intriguing and, at times, moving. Exquisitely  written with believable characters, I raced through it, and yet never wanted it to end.
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What a delightful surprise this was.  I loved it and especially the two young sisters, coming to terms with the aftermath of World War 2.  This has definitely got to get 5 stars for the ingenuity, plot and adventure that takes place.  A brilliant read for the KS2 reader.
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I absolutely loved this book. It’s a marvellous mystery story set immediately after WWII when life is still really difficult for many people. There are echoes of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at the start but then moves into completely different territory as the mystery unfolds. 
Isabel, Flora and their mother have had their home destroyed in the bombing and have to go and live with their aunt and her husband at Splint Hall. Splint Hall is where their mother grew up but it is a very different place now that her brother in law, Mr Godfrey, is master of the house. 
The two girls explore the house and grounds and meet Simon, the son of the previous gatekeeper who was sacked for stealing meat. Simon seems able to mysteriously appear and disappear from the grounds of the house. As they explore Splint Hall, the girls uncover more and more strange things. Who are the men who arrive in the middle of the night to take away bulging sacks and why was their grandfather obsessed with drawing dragons? And how did Splint Hall get its name?
The story drew me in from the very first page. It’s quite slow moving to begin with as the scene is set but the action soon picks up and there are some heart stopping moments especially in the tunnels. The characters are all vividly drawn from Mr Godfrey with his wounded leg to Simon and his mysterious secrets and all of them come alive from the page. I loved the plot and there was just the right amount of danger to keep things exciting. 
This was a brilliant adventure and I’m really grateful to Net Galley and Andersen Press for providing me with this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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I have to admit that it took a lot of effort to finish this book. The initial quarter of the novel was so depressing that I wondered if I would want kids to read this. But I persevered and it turned out okay.
Now I know that this was set right after the war, so you have to make allowances, but there was a total lack of spark from any characters. Even though there were extenuating circumstances, the children were extremely subdued, considering their age. 
The servants, Rigby and Mrs Fishwife, were both nasty pieces of work and lacked any warmth. And as for Mr Godfrey, the man must have had some redeeming features when aunt Bea married him. But the living in fear of her husband and the subservience just felt wrong and was a bit stomach-churning. You knew what the master of the house was up to, and that made you despise him even more.
There were a few little sub-plots about secret deliveries to the household and suspected thefts, but nothing dramatic. 
The book did start to get interesting about a third of the way through. This is where Isobel and Flora got let off the leash a little more and found Grandpa’s drawings. I would have liked to have seen a picture or two at this point, especially of the metallic dragons, previously owned by the children’s mum and aunt Bea.
The book does get exciting, and there are plenty of thrills and spills. There are some twists and a few heart-in-mouth moments. I do not want to give away spoilers because it will ruin the surprising turn of events. In the end, I was glad that I stuck with The Secret of Splint Hall.
I recommend The Secret of Splint Hall as it turned out to be an adventurous and dramatic tale and is well worth a read.
Thank you, NetGalley and Andersen Press, for the ARC.
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This was such a good read that I read really quickly, it was such a quick, easy and atmospheric read that I would have loved to read over the spooky season. I loved everything from the writing, the characters, the storyline and the front cover. It was compelling from the very start to the finish and I really enjoyed it.
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