By Joseph Delaney
Illustrated by Scott M. Fischer
Available now from Sourcebooks Fire
I own the first several books in The Last Apprentice/Spooks series by Joseph Delaney, but I've never found time to read them. When I heard about THE GHOST PRISON, it seemed like a good place to start. Same world, but no overlapping characters. Plus, it was just a novella!
THE GHOST PRISON is 112 pages, but the type is large and there are a large number of pictures. Now, I really enjoyed the illustrations. Scott M. Fischer's art is bold, clear, and sets the tone of this short piece perfectly. The final illustration in THE GHOST PRISON is half of what makes the ending so effective. But I wouldn't pay full price for THE GHOST PRISON ($12.99 for the hardcover). Most retailers have it discounted to a more reasonable price.
Billy Calder is a new guard at the local prison, and is soon transferred to the night shift. There he learns about the various ghouls that haunt the prison, including Long-Neck Nettie, who seems to have taken a shine to Billy. It's a rough job, but perfectly safe as long as he follows all of the rules.
I think that THE GHOST PRISON is a great Halloween read. The horror builds slowly, as Billy's new job puts him in the path of a terrible monster. It's a delightfully creepy read, and I liked that it doesn't pull its punches. This might not be the best choice for younger readers, although I know I would have enjoyed a story as morbid as THE GHOST PRISON back in the third grade.
One thing I particularly liked as an adult is how THE GHOST PRISON deals with historical attitudes. What I dismissed as unpleasant but probably just a sign of the setting turned out to be a clue as to character. THE GHOST PRISON might be short, but it's well constructed.
In conclusion: love the story and the illustrations, but still think it's overpriced. I can see this being worth the price if it was a collection of horror stories instead of just one. But it was a great introduction to Delaney, and perhaps I'll get around to reading those books now.