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The Darkling
     

The Darkling

by Charles Butler
 
A chance meeting between 15-year-old Petra and old Mr. Century unleashes a chain of terrifying supernatural events. Because Petra reminds him of his long-dead fiance, Mr. Century tries to take over Petra's spirit through the Darkling, an almost-human, nighttime shadow cast on her bedroom ceiling by a street light. The result is a powerful and moving novel that blends

Overview

A chance meeting between 15-year-old Petra and old Mr. Century unleashes a chain of terrifying supernatural events. Because Petra reminds him of his long-dead fiance, Mr. Century tries to take over Petra's spirit through the Darkling, an almost-human, nighttime shadow cast on her bedroom ceiling by a street light. The result is a powerful and moving novel that blends ancient mysteries and contemporary realities. 176 pp. Ages 12 and up. Pub: 4/98.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A clever, self-sufficient first-person narrator gives this debut British ghost story a boost, but not enough to redeem the disorienting elements of the plot. To 15-year-old Petra, "The Darkling," a face-like shadow on her bedroom wall, has always appeared menacing. When an ancient, dying man gives her presents because she reminds him of a lost love, Petra's fears become real. Old Mr. Century passes away and speaks to her through the Darkling. He then takes possession of her widower father and alternately attacks her and pleads with her to return his affections. The promise of the premise is never fully achieved: readers never learn the contents of a mysterious bottle given her by Mr. Century (which appears to be the catalyst for the strange changes in her father), what the old man's connection is to her father's insidious employer nor why the spell over her father finally breaks. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
While making a delivery on her paper route, fifteen-year-old Petra meets the ancient Mr. Century. A series of unsolicited gifts from the old man just before his death changes Petra's life forever. Already struggling with the accidental death of her mother, Petra finds her bereaved father mysteriously turning into someone else-and that someone else appears to be a younger Mr. Century intent on making amends to his dead lost love, no matter the price to the living. This first novel from Butler sets the classic gothic tale within the contemporary world of British suburbia.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 6-10The Darkling is what 15-year-old Petra McCoy has always called the shadow cast on her bedroom ceiling by an odd-shaped tree branch. Life has not been kind to Petra-her mother died two years earlier and her kind but ineffectual father is unable to hold a steady job. Things go from bad to worse when her paper route takes her to Century Hall, the home of 102-year-old Edmund Century. He sees a resemblance in Petra to his long-dead fiance, Eurydice Tremain, and starts sending her mysterious presents, but dies just days after they meet. Soon after his death, the Darkling is seemingly transformed from a shadow to a malevolent spirit that haunts the teen's days as well as her nights. Is her father really losing his tentative grasp on reality at last, or is the Darkling/Edmund taking over his body in its yearning to be near Petra/Eurydice? This is a moody but murky story with more competing elements and loose ends than it has room to explore. Petra's father's transformation and downfall are the main story, but her best friend's brother's change from geek to the love of her life, her hatred of her father's former co-worker and current employer (with elements of possible sexual abuse hinted at), and his sudden interest in turning Century Hall into a hotel could each become novels in themselves, as could the long-ago romance of Edmund and Eurydice. This is a fast-moving British gothic with elements of YA problem novel added-an additional purchase where the genre is popular.Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
Horn Book Magazine
Since her mother's death, fifteen-year-old Petra McCoy has struggled to keep her disorganized family together: establishing a family "contract" assigning chores for herself, her unemployed father, and her un-cooperative younger brother; taking on a paper route to bring in extra income. On Halloween, she is asked to deliver a paper to Century Hall, a decaying mansion high on a hill outside town. To her dismay, the housekeeper asks her in to meet the reclusive Mr. Century, and she is drawn unwillingly into his eccentric world because of her physical resemblance to his long-dead cousin Eurydice Tremain. Sixty years ago, he caused Eurydice's death in a fire on the eve of their wedding. Since that time he has lived alone, studying the occult in hopes of bringing her back. When he gives the reluctant Petra three objects that had belonged to Eurydice, she begins to have disturbing dreams of the dead woman. After Mr. Century dies, he comes to Petra in the guise of the Darkling, a shadowy face on her bedroom wall formed by tree branches and a trick of the light. Although she summons the courage to repel his attempt to take over her mind, she discovers to her horror that he has moved on to possess her hapless father. Petra's attempts to defeat the Darkling/Mr. Century build to a gloriously gothic climax in the burnt-out Temple of Pythagoras at Century Hall. This debut novel is compulsively readable, and although there is an overabundance of plot strands, Petra emerges as a resourceful, determined heroine with a self-deprecating sense of humor that is a welcome counterbalance to the moody, atmospheric setting.
Kirkus Reviews
Butler creates a likable heroine and fine, atmospheric prose to draw readers along, but it's not enough to sustain the faulty plotting of this mystery. While on her paper route, Petra, 15, delivers a package to eccentric Edmund Century, who is about to turn 102. He forms a strange bond with Petra, and endows her with three odd gifts—the significance of which the reader never finds out—before he shortly thereafter dies. The secret of his attachment to her slowly and mysteriously unravels through a silhouette on her bedroom wall that Petra had nicknamed "the Darkling" when she was a child. This formerly harmless shadow takes on the spirit of Edmund Century and seeks out his long, lost love whose spirit resides in Petra. Add a spiritually possessed father, a sick brother, a disappearing housekeeper, and the father's child-molesting boss, and the plot thickensþto an outright muddle. The mystery never comes together: Resolutions remain elusive, except for those explanations with a basis in some confusing real-estate dealings; the storyline of the dead characters is a wedged-in afterthought. (Fiction. 12-14)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780689817960
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
04/01/1998
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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