The Vampire Knife: The Witching Hours Book One (Jack Henseleit, Hardie Grant Egmont)
As a bookseller, recommending horror for the middle-grade fiction crowd is a difficult balancing act: not scary enough and the kids will switch off; too scary and the adults will protest. Thankfully the publication of The Vampire Knife means there’s a new series on the horizon for readers aged eight and up that will scratch their terror itch without drawing too many concerned looks from their parents. Scary story aficionado Anna and her not-so-brave younger brother Max have been relocated to Transylvania, home of the vampire. After their father leaves them in the care of the ancient innkeeper Mrs Dalca and her granddaughter Isabella, Max is snatched in the middle of the night by a monstrous strigoi. Armed only with the magical Vampire Knife, Anna and Isabella must travel into the heart of a ruined castle, braving bears, wolves and terrifying fairy creatures to get Max back. Vampires, Transylvania and kidnapped little brothers might seem like overly familiar fare in the horror genre, but author Jack Henseleit brings a sense of authenticity to the setting by sprinkling in Romanian words and borrowing concepts from dark fairy tales. The result is an entertaining book that will have great appeal to ghoulish readers.
Holly Harper is a children’s author and bookseller at Readings Kids