The Last Halloween is the second volume in The Deadseer Chronicles by Richard Estep. I am lucky enough to count Richard as a friend, and doubly lucky that last year he asked me if I would like to read the first book in the series; Agonal Breath.
I loved Agonal Breath, and you can see my review of it here.
I guess then, that I was triply lucky that he trusted me enough to let me read the second book in the series too.
The Last Halloween follows on from the events of Agonal Breath. A few months have elapsed, but what happened in the abandoned sanatorium in Book One, has resonance and echoes throughout Book Two.
As in the first volume, our experiences are guided by the character of Danny Chill, a typically geeky teenage boy, wrestling with adolescence and his complicated feelings for Becky, the girl of his dreams, who he teamed up with in Agonal Breath. Despite the fact that Danny loves Becky, he cannot seem to communicate with her without every conversation becoming a fight. As Becky struggles with her own issues, feelings of guilt and grief around what happened at the sanatorium, Danny cannot handle his insecurity around her. They end up fighting so badly that Becky leaves town to stay with her cousin. Danny is bereft.
Although Danny is a typical teenager in some ways, in others he is exceptional. Danny is a Deadseer. This means that Danny can both see and interact with the dead. The situation with Becky is exacerbated by Danny seeing Becky in the company of some kind of undead creature she is not even aware of. As she won’t even return his calls, Danny does not know what to do. All he knows is that Becky is in danger.
Forced to share some of what he knows with his mum, Danny and she set off on a road trip to the town where Becky is staying, and working as an extra in a haunted hospital experience. This is where things start to get seriously creepy.
There are lots of things to love about this book. I enjoyed the fact that the character of Danny is growing, and in this book, his human/emotional growth takes centre stage rather than any flash psychic abilities. I loved the fact that Becky remains a strong character, although I would have liked to have seen a little more of the development of her Wiccan abilities. I am hoping they come in book three. I also loved that Danny’s mum gets more of a starring role in this book. She reminds me rather of Buffy’s mum, Joyce, but cooler. Jess, Becky’s cousin was a welcome new addition to this book too.
Brandon, a key figure in book one, was not in this volume, but I thought his writing out was done well, and didn’t leave too much of a hole, and it does not negate the fact that Brandon may reappear in a later book.
I’m deliberately steering clear of writing about the horror/ghost elements of the book. I don’t want to ruin the surprise. The story was strong and compelling with well researched interesting story arcs and characters, and suitably chilling passages, which are balanced with more upbeat, funny episodes. The book is suitable for children aged twelve and up, both boys and girls. There are great cliff hanger moments and satisfyingly grisly bits that will appeal to the horror aficionados. Due to the scare factor I would be loathe to recommend it to younger readers unless you are sure they can read this without nightmares.
I’m sorry I finished it now, and am very much looking forward to the next book in the series.