Book Review: The Last of the Spirits

The Last of the Spirits
Chris Preistly, 2015

As I continue my dive into Christmas-Carol-adjacent novels, I found this oddity.

I guess it's supposed to be for kids? The author seems to specialize in kid's horror, although the books advertised in the back looked like adult novels? For me this one rode an odd line. It's not that it's bad; it just seems so superfluous.  

The book invents a young protagonist, Sam. Sam and his younger sister are living on the street in London due to a complex series of catastrophes. One night, Sam is so angered by the idea that some people (Scrooge) have so much when he has so little that he decides he wants to steal from him, or possibly kill him and steal from him. 

However, before this can happen, Sam and his sister fall asleep in a nearby graveyard and are accidentally drawn into the world of the spirits, witnessing all of the events of A Christmas Carol. Sam is simultaneously granted his own visions of the past and of the future if he continues down the path of anger and violence. 

Much of the book is quite violent and bleak, and you would have to know your kid to know whether they could handle it. Content includes descriptions of starving, homelessness, fear of freezing to death, death by hanging, and implied child prostitution, on top of all the ghostly goings-on. 

The context of the title is that Sam and his sister play the roles of Ignorance and Want for Christmas Present - the only time Scrooge is aware of their presence. However, while this somewhat fits their characters, it doesn't really add anything to the Carol sequence.

I liked the inclusion of Twelfth Night, even though its role in the original story isn't acknowledged. On Twelfth Night, Sam and his sister, now starving in earnest, return to Scrooge's house to seek shelter. It's fully revealed by this point that Marley played a role (though not a really villainous one) in the deaths of their parents, and Scrooge knows this and takes them in and adopts them. 

Which is... fine? I guess? Like I said at the start, the story is fine, but I'm not sure what was the point of retelling Carol with extra kids. It doesn't add anything to the original, really, and it's just another specific family (besides the Crachits) that Scrooge's money can help. Why doesn't he adopt all the orphaned kids he can find, at that point? There are already kids in the story as it is.

From the author's note at the end, he seemed to think that kid protagonists make the story more accessible for kids? While keeping it a ghost story? Ehh. Maybe? I think it's probably got that problem where the story's a bit complex for younger kids, but the moralizing's a bit too obvious and the protagonists act too much like kids for teenagers to enjoy. But maybe you know a young teen obsessed with historical London and ghost stories (not with Dickens, there's plenty of actual Dickens for those kids to read). That kid would probably like it.