4.0 15
by J. P. Hightman

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"It's something of a Romeo and Juliet story. There was a young couple in Salem, long ago . . . And the girl's mother, she hated the boy. When the witch-hunting began, mother, daughter, and suitor all ended up at the Blackthorne hanging."

Now, ages later, in the cold, dark heart of the Victorian era—an age of black clothes and


"It's something of a Romeo and Juliet story. There was a young couple in Salem, long ago . . . And the girl's mother, she hated the boy. When the witch-hunting began, mother, daughter, and suitor all ended up at the Blackthorne hanging."

Now, ages later, in the cold, dark heart of the Victorian era—an age of black clothes and black moods—one train is bound for Blackthorne, near Salem, where a winter carnival awaits. The cars are full of the promise of fireworks, sleigh rides, and skating. But for Tess and Tobias Goodraven, this train will take them to a place much darker than they imagined.

Even a seasoned pair of ghost hunters like Tess and Tobias didn't expect a witch like Old Mother Malgore—a witch who stalks the forests, silent as snowfall, hunting, hungering. When the train derails and the casualties climb, the Goodravens must bridge the gap between past and present tragedies if they have any chance of quieting the souls of the living, the dead, and the haunted.

In J. P. Hightman's richly woven story of ghosts and witchcraft, the simple is sinister, the dead stalk the living, and the only real weapon is love.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Cara Chancellor
Death is what brought Tess and Tobias Goodraven together. After a theater fire killed both their parents, the couple became ghost hunters, traveling the world helping spirits to "move on." Their encounters with the dead have left them more sensitive than most to spirit activity, which makes it almost impossible to resist the powerful call emanating from Blackthorne, Massachusetts. Once the last haven of the Salem witches before their execution, the town is trying to revitalize itself with a winter carnival designed to lure new prospective residents. If the legends and spirit warnings are true, though, not all of the witches were innocent…and not all of them stayed dead. What starts out as a mystery novel quickly becomes a horror story of 100 train passengers' fight to stay alive in the face of terrifying Old Mother Malgore, the First Accused of the trials. Violence and gore—from drowning children to spines ripped from the living—are prevalent, yet they do not quite overrun the ghost story. The book is most similar to an Alfred Hitchcock tale in that life may not go on happily, but go on it does; it will appeal to the same audience. Reviewer: Cara Chancellor
Children's Literature - Melissa Joy Adams
It is 1892, hundreds of years after the Salem witch trials, and most people have all but forgotten the story of three witches who fled to Blackthorne to escape death. Tess and Tobias are not most people. After both of their parents were killed in a devastating fire, the two orphans kept in touch and eventually married. Their brush with death at such an early age caused a bond with the spirit world, making them excellent ghost hunters. Over the years, they developed this skill, became highly sensitive to ghosts, and acquired an unquenchable thirst for dangerous encounters. Feeling a call from beyond the grave, Tess and Tobias journey to Blackthorne, seeking ghosts, adventure, and answers to the mystery of what really happened those two hundred years ago. After their train derails, they discover a gruesome witch, neither dead nor fully alive, Old Mother Malgore. Tess and Tobias struggle to aid their fellow travelers and the ghosts of two young lovers who have been ceaselessly tormented by the witch. As the situation becomes more and more treacherous, Tess and Tobias realize that if they do not figure out what happened in the past, they will never survive in the present. Readers will grip the edges of Hightman's novel, savoring the suspenseful plot and unexpected twists until the very last page. Reviewer: Melissa Joy Adams
VOYA - Cindy Faughnam
From the eerie first scene where a father pulls his teen daughter onto the ice to break through it with an axe and drown them both, this book continues through macabre scenes of ghosts and death. In 1892, Tess and Tobias Goodraven are seventeen years old, married, and accomplished ghost hunters. When a graveyard spirit tells them that not all the accused in Salem were innocent, they travel to Blackthorne, a village populated by the accused of Salem who went free. The train, carrying passengers to a winter carnival in Blackthorne, derails when a herd of elk inexplicably run across the tracks. Further horrific events include one car falling into the frozen lake and another burning up. When the Goodravens discover that a young couple from Salem and the jealous mother who kept the couple apart haunt the area, they split up in an attempt to put them to rest. The events in this book are excessively horrific. Many scenes are not for the faint-at-heart reader. Tobias and his father's relationship before his father's death seems important, but it is not satisfactorily resolved. Tess and Tobias's relationship is another confusing area. Monsters, ice churches, and blue wispy spirits appear in the woods. Viewpoint shifts among many characters, including some of the ghosts and dead passengers, leave the reader wondering which characters are important. When it is made clear that almost all are dead, it makes things even more confusing, which, when combined with the gratuitous violence, makes this book difficult to read. Reviewer: Cindy Faughnam
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

The year is 1892, and Tess and Tobias Goodraven are not your typical newly married couple. Avid musicians, they are also 17-year-old ghost hunters, possessing a special talent that enables them to feel the presence of spirits and communicate with them. On a mission to put to rest the spirit of Mary Dutton, a victim of the Salem witch trials, the ghost reveals to them that there is evil associated with the trials that needs to be dealt with. They learn that three "witches" escaped and fled to nearby Blackthorne where they were caught and executed, and they board a train bound to a winter ice festival there. When it derails, killing many passengers, the Goodravens realize that they are in grave danger. Hightman's dark and intricate story is full of plot twists and turns in which the dead stalk the living. It will leave readers dazed, disturbed, and, like any true ghost story, full of terror that keeps them on the edge of their seats.-Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY

Kirkus Reviews
Ineffective gothic horror scaffolds on the Salem witch trials. In 1892, a rich young couple rides a ceremonial train between Salem and the neighboring town of Blackthorne, to which, legend has it, three witches (a woman, her beloved and her interfering mother) fled 200 years earlier-witches who were "the real forces of darkness," unlike the innocent people executed due to "hysteria and hate." Investors want to revitalize Blackthorne, but the train breaks down and the passengers are terrorized and, over time, massacred. Survivors Tess and Tobias, age 17 (but adult in this Victorian context, and married, with no particular young-adult issues), have a connection to the spirit world that holds the only hope of conquering the witches. The most powerful witch is the mother, who seeks to separate the younger two, who are clearly meant to parallel the protagonists. While Hightman's ending provides appropriate chills, the prose along the way is purple and melodramatic, featuring weak explanations, a slipshod narrative viewpoint and red herrings that cheaply deceive the reader. (Horror. YA)

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Chapter One

The Home of the Ghosthunters,
A Drawing Room, New York City, 1892

Here we are again, Tess was thinking.

Tess and Tobias Goodraven, in their mahogany chairs, facing each other near the bay windows, cellos at the ready, and now beginning to play. The petite young lady, dressed in white, dark hair in a perfect coil behind her head, and the light-haired young man, dashing but unkempt, were again building a musical wall between themselves and the world.

The room was large and its two occupants might have looked fragile beneath the high ceiling, but to Tess this was the safest and friendliest of places, even in the midst of an argument.

Neither spoke. They let their cellos do the talking. The low throbbing of the strings, like a prisoner humming a dirge, reverberated off the portraits, the antiquities, the dark emerald wallpaper and the black wood of the floor, and wrapped the couple in a cocoon of their own making.

Such gloomy noises fit perfectly in the Goodraven mansion.

The room was lined with dusty books, overflowing from the library, volumes filled with the sinister ramblings of forgotten men, accounts of travels made in the worst of times to places never meant to be visited—all stories Tobias had paged through, but never finished, each time driven to a new one, or to his maps, or into his own investigations.

His restlessness was exciting to Tess, and wearying, and often she couldn't decide which she felt more.

The music moved through her entire body as she held the cello between her knees, the instrument's long swanlike neck rising beside her head, itsstrings digging pleasantly into her fingers.

She was never going to admit she'd been wrong.

To look at her, you would never have known she had such a rebellious spirit. She seemed much the same as any pretty, upper-class woman in the city, but spend two minutes in conversation with her, and her devilish playfulness and desire to shock the prim sensibilities around her would be obvious.

She was more than matched in this by Tobias, who forever relished in playing the scoundrel.

They had been married less than a year.

This was their first real disagreement, though his silence was not unusual; he seemed to crave it at times. But the music often healed him, brought him back to her.

Her playing had become a mere scraping of the strings. She regained her concentration, but too late. Tobias furrowed his brow, noting her distraction, answering her trills with his own. He was a tall, slim gentleman, Tobias was, with a handsome, rounded face that softened the impression made by his shockingly white hair. Those snowy, fine angelic strands often fell forward over bored, faded green eyes that lit up whenever something morbid or novel presented itself.

Because as a rule he was so humorous, Tess half expected him to smile at any moment, but he was altogether different when he was immersed in playing. He'd make no exception today.

It was a quiet, ancient piece, moody in the extreme, the kind Tobias usually favored, full of contemplation, never quite giving in to the melody. The music conjured up images of reverberant chambers in a decaying castle, in a time of plagues and sorrows, with the dead piling up in the streets, while behind the high gates of a fortress, the approval of a lovelorn nobleman was all that concerned the court musicians. (At least, this is what floated into Tess's mind.)

Tobias played the more difficult, lower bass line, investigating a rich darkness Tess would never dare to reach, exploring a cold emptiness she would fear. His eyes fell closed.

Now the couple departed from the written notes, and instead joined each other in finding new ground. Tobias had a genius for this. His improvisations perfectly matched her higher wanderings, the two streaming lines of music separating and harmonizing. Though Tess was not always certain of his next moves, he knew exactly where she was going, and met her there with a chivalrous echo, playfully teasing out her adventurousness, drawing from her new pleadings. He continually surprised her, and pleasantly so.

He dominated her now, taking over the slight melody and moving the music into a territory more bleak than any Gothic landscape, and she accompanied him with a plain bowing.

She had a tendency to follow him wherever he went, in music, as in life.

The Goodravens were unique, and they knew it, and they enjoyed it. Not many seventeen-year-olds were so rich, or lived on their own in a mansion, with a butler and house staff to do whatever they wanted; not many people their age were married; and very few hunted ghosts just for the thrill of it. Their lives were magical. And dangerous beyond measure.

Tess had a small but growing awareness of this danger.

She had begun to worry about where this witches' trail was going to take them.

"Are you ready to talk about it yet?" she inquired, somewhat playful. Lately their music had often preceded deep and wide-ranging discussions.

But he didn't look up. He made his bow strikes a bit angrier, slicing out a quicker tempo. No, he was not ready to talk.

The "incident" in the Salem graveyard several nights ago had been something more than the quiet séances they'd joined in New England, more than the gentle sensing of spirits they'd observed in their journeys in Europe, or even in distant India, where they had witnessed the moving of furniture all on its own in a British ambassador's residence.

This Salem business was considerably more aggressive.

Tess moved her eyes past Tobias to the bay windows and a solemn brownstone building adorned with grim, overfed gargoyles. She could dimly hear the ragged clatter of hooves, and coachmen sniping at each other and their horses, trying to steer a clear path. The second-floor parlor did not allow a view of the Manhattan street below, but Tess had imprinted the avenue in her mind's eye: darkly dressed men, in top hats and bowlers, high collars smudged with ink by the end of the day, and the light, at the dinner hour, drifting lazily down through billows of smoke. The windows were thick, but she was faintly aware of them, could feel their bitter mélange of tired-out resentment.

Spirit. Copyright © by J. Hightman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

J. P. Hightman is a professional screenwriter and the author of the saint of dragons and samurai. He divides his time between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Spirit 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
J.R._BookWorm More than 1 year ago
It was really well writen. But the end... that's why I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. I really wish there was a squeal! It was so good up until that part....But other than that I loved some parts, like at the beginning. That was really cool. I'd recommed it to any any of my friend! So go out and read it!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thnkyou hopeful
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Golden_Reader12 More than 1 year ago
While reading this book I was thinking that it was a pretty good book,a little gruesome in some parts, but none the less pretty good. Then came the ending and I was like "what?" I guess if you like suprise endings you would be okay with this book but I felt very, umm...unsatisfied with the outcome
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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R4Life More than 1 year ago
This book is full of great writing and a fascinating plot line. You find yourself rooting for everything to be alright because that is what Tess and Tobia deserve. Which is why the ending made me want to scream and rip my hair out. Is there no justice in the world? I truly hope there is a sequel because I might go crazy if there isn't. This is one of the few books that will haunt me for awhile. I need a better closure than the one Hightman gave us. Keep your fingers crossed.
BookLoversAdvocate More than 1 year ago
I am a 20-year-old Bookseller. I am not bias, nor closed-minded and I enjoy a decent scare just as much as the next person. However, I must strongly warn against this title. I was intrigued by the hugely understated plot summary on the inside flaps, so I borrowed a copy and read it in two days. I will admit the plot line is unique, but the content is full of pointless, senseless gore than has absolutely nothing to do with the story development and everything to do with feeble attempts to scare the reader. What really results is absolute disgust. Much of the horrific details are so unnecessary, one starts to wonder if the content did not exist, if a story would exist at all. Point being, it wouldnt. Maybe if the author had spent more time actually developing the storyline, instead of merely filling the pages with pointless murder, gore, massacre and mutilation, the book might be worth reading. Instead, we have a villain who kills for absolutely no reason, from slashing down innocent children to tearing the spines out of those who oppose her. Makes one wonder what on earth the publisher was thinking, allowing such a book to reach the shelves of the TEEN section of the bookstore.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Blackthorne has always been haunted. A tiny town in Massachusetts, it has been abandoned since the Salem witch trials, when a group of unfortunates fled there only to be hanged as witches.

Now, in the heart of the Victorian era, one train is bound for Blackthorne, where a winter carnival awaits in an attempt to breathe life into the old town. The cars are full of the promise of fireworks, sleigh rides, and skating, but Tess and Tobias Goodraven, two seasoned ghost hunters, expect something much darker.

Though they came in search of ghosts, even the Goodravens didn't expect a witch like Old Mother Malgore - a ghost full of malevolence, who stalks the forests, snuffing out any spark of life. When the train derails and casualties soar, the Goodravens must move between past and present tragedies to have any chance of killing the witch, quieting the souls of the living, and setting to rest the ghosts.

SPIRIT uses the historical Salem witch trials as a jumping point, and leaps off into an eerie ghost story. The prose is lyrical and haunting, and the narration, led by Tess and Tobias, oscillates between richly romantic, unexpectedly terrifying, and acerbically humorous, all with a touch of darkness. As the story progresses, readers' expectations will be completely derailed as new revelations move the plot in altogether uncharted directions.

With an ending so unexpectedly chilling that I was actually frightened, SPIRIT is a masterfully done book that will haunt the reader long after its cover has been closed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tess and Tobias- Incredible characters- vivid, rich and intriguing. The kind that usually get buried beneath layers of dull discription.

A memorable tale, a bit like the movie The Key with Kate Hudson.

The cello players dragged me in to their realm of ghosts and phantoms, leaving me to frown at the ending- how do two charcters, so rare in books these days, for their luring qualities, become quiet?

Hopefully Hightman will reconsider, like Kathleen Duey with Skin Hunger, and make a sequel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I gave this book four stars because it really was a great read...right up till the end and then it just leaves you with your mouth hanging open feeling completely indignant. Where's the justice? I'm keeping my fingers crossed in the hopes that there will be a second book to rectify the ending of this one. I recommend this book because it IS written well and pulls you through it with lots of excitement and of course the excentric love birds. Just be prepared for the end. You've been warned
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is really good! its written wonderfully. J.P. Hightman really knows what he/she is doing.