Review, giveaway & author blog: Nick Tomlinson / The Ghouls of Howlfair

BooksforTopics Reading for Pleasure Recommendations

Today is our stop on the blog tour for The Ghouls of Howlfair by Nick Tomlinson, a spooky mystery featuring a young historian called Molly Thomspon and set in a town full of seriously creepy legends and a host of mythical monsters waiting to be summoned.

Read on for a review of The Ghouls of Howlfair, an exclusive guest post by author Nick, in which he discusses the process of creating the setting and characters in the story, and details of a giveaway to win a copy of the book.

Book Title: The Ghouls of Howlfair (available here)

Author: Nick Tomlinson

Illustrator: Kim Geyer

Publisher: Walker

Publication Date: October 2019

Reviewed by: Julie Wells, Y5/6 Teacher


This debut children's story from Nick Tomlinson certainly lived up to its claim of being, “A brilliantly funny and spooky mystery adventure.” I was sucked into the story, hypnotised by the clever use of language and hooked by the incredibly well-planned plot which unfolded full of spectral splendour and ghostly gloriousness.

Tomlinson’s description entranced me from the very first page and I have shared numerous examples of clever personification and carefully crafted detail with my class (who are all now queuing up to borrow my review copy). Their gasps at the beauty of language and the illusion of reality created are testament to the skill of the author, and are plaudits that are truly well deserved.

The story follows the adventures of Molly; we find out about her unusual home-life, her eccentric hobby, her difficulties dealing with the loss of her father and her special friendship with Gabriel (their relationship being crucial to the resolution of the tale). The story really is the epitome of a page-turner, with twists and turns aplenty. I ate up all three hundred and thirty-three pages of this book in delicious chunks. The tasty development of the relationships between Molly, her friends and also her adversaries developed through the chapters enticingly, punctuated with piquant flashbacks, hints and red herrings, which kept me hungrily devouring the book until the exquisite resolution.

What I possibly liked most about this debut was the fact that the end – whilst seriously satisfying – feels open. I am hopeful of an equally juicy sequel. I’d be first in the queue to gobble up further ghoulish adventures in Howlfair, and Molly is a character I hope will live on.

You can order Ghouls of Howlfair online or from your local bookshop or library.

Guest Post

by Nick Tomlinson, author of The Ghouls of Howlfair.

Writing ‘The Ghouls of Howlfair’

I was mad about horror books as a kid, and I spent ages trying to write one of my own but getting absolutely nowhere.

My story was set in a town called Howlfair, a town with more scary legends than any other place on earth. It was about a young historian who discovers that one of Howlfair’s scariest legends is starting to come true, and she’s the only one who knows enough about the legend to stop it. So I had the story, but couldn’t find the right character. I went through a long period – about fifteen years - of auditioning different characters and trying them out on the page, but none of them clicked.

I used to teach in a girls’ school, and in my classes there were always a few bookworms, girls who loved reading and writing more than they loved anything else. They never did their homework because they were too busy writing rabid fan fiction about their favourite books, books which always featured feisty adventurers. These girls themselves weren’t feisty adventurers. They described themselves as weird, and awkward, and introverted, and clumsy. I tried teaching these girls that you can be weird, and awkward, and introverted, and clumsy, and still be unstoppable. But when it came to the character in my book, I assumed she needed to be a feisty, brave adventurer.

Over time, though, without me realising it, the bookworms at school coagulated in my head and formed a new character, one who was just like them. As soon as she appeared I just knew that her name was Molly Thompson. Her message to me was: I’M your lead character! I’m not a feisty brave adventurer – I’m awkward, I’m introverted, I’m weird, I’m too serious, I make silly mistakes in my friendships and I can’t get along with my mum… But I’m unstoppable! I don’t give up. I’m every girl you ever taught who called herself weird and who wrote fan fiction instead of doing homework, and I want a story of my own.

So I put Molly Thompson in the haunted town of Howlfair, gave her a scatty best friend called Lowry and a scrawny cat called Gabriel, and I pitted them against the scariest monsters I could summon up. Not just monsters from beyond the grave, but monsters from Molly’s past. It turned out that Molly was the right girl for the job. She turned the book into the kind of story I’d wanted to read at Halloween when I was a kid - a really scary horror story that I hope will frighten readers silly while also being lots and lots of fun. And I hope that getting to know Molly will be like getting to know a new friend.


***Book Giveaway!***

Thanks to the publishers at Walker, we have two copies of The Ghouls of Howlfair to give away to our followers.

To enter, simply follow @booksfortopics on Twitter and retweet the giveaway tweet before 11.59pm Sunday 13th October 2019 (T&Cs here).


You can order Ghouls of Howlfair online or from your local bookshop or library.

Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to our Review Panel member for reviewing it. Check out the other stops on the blog tour too!

Where next? > Visit our Reading for Pleasure Hub

> Browse our Topic Booklists

> View our printable year group booklists.

> See our Books of the Month.


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