My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Those creepy little dolls are back and they’ve got some new games they want to play.
This, the prequel to the wonderfully chilling Frozen Charlotte, is just as good if not better. The Edwardian setting really brings something to the story and it’s packed with all of the best horror tropes to keep you reading late into the night (with all of the lights on of course).
(Note: While this is the second book in a series there’s very little overlap so no spoilers in the review or syposis)
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.
I’m always on the lookout for a creepy horror story but despite someone recommending Frozen Charlotte to me ages ago it was only after I was approved for an ARC of Charlotte Says that I finally got around to reading it and I’m so sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner. That book is seriously creepy and I literally couldn’t put it down.
Needless to say as soon as I finished it I couldn’t resist getting stuck in to prequel Charlotte Says and do you know what, I think it might be even better. I don’t know whether it was just that by reading them back to back I was more into the author’s writing style or if it was the change in time period that worked better but, while this had possibly fewer chills (I knew what to expect so was prepared), the writing just seemed so much better. There was less bluntness to it and consequently it seemed less forced and more natural, drawing me into the story completely.
It’s predominantly set in a girl’s boarding school in 1910, so we have a much wider cast of characters but there is still this very real sense of isolation and remoteness which brings a chilling atmosphere to the story.
The story is told from the point of view of Jemima Black, a wonderfully complex character who makes for some fascinating reading. She comes across as weak and subservient a lot of the time but there’s a real strength, determination and slight deviousness within her which, combined with the mystery of her past, make her very unpredictable. From the very beginning when she wakes from a nightmare of fire and blood to arrive alone at the boarding school to take up her post you know there is something dark in her past.
Some of the other characters do feel a little bit stereotyped, there’s the tyrannical head teacher, the pretty but mean maid, a pupil who sees things no one else does (and no one believes) and the love interest who’s too good to be true but these are part of what makes it such an enjoyable (and creepy) read.
For those who have read Frozen Charlotte you will know pretty much what to expect when the dolls arrive at the school, strange noises in the middle of the night, odd behavior, violence and death and some of the events of this story are uncovered in the previous book but there are still some surprises and twists in store.
I do feel like I should add a little warning here that as you would expect from a horror there are some violent scenes and abuse. Some of the descriptions are pretty graphic, particularly around violence towards animals (I don’t consider myself to be squeamish and I found a couple of scenes difficult). It might be better avoided if this is likely to be a trigger (or go read Frozen Charlotte which isn’t quite as bad)
You can get away with reading this if you haven’t read Frozen Charlotte as while there is some overlap between the two stories they are set in completely different time periods with minimal crossover. I would still recommend Frozen Charlotte first though as Charlotte Says explains away a lot of the mystery (and it’s a great read too).
Overall a wonderfully creepy read and definitely one I’d recommend if you’re a fan of the genre and not too squeamish.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all thoughts are my own.