Lightning Falls by Amy Wilson, illustrated by Rachel Vale and Helen Crawford-White

Cover image by studiohelen.co.uk, published by Macmillan 19 August 2021

This was the Primary School Book Club choice for September 2021 and I am embarrassed to admit that, although I have been aware of Amy Wilson’s reputation for some time, this is actually the first of her books that I have read. Why did I wait so long? Her description of Lightning Falls or The Ghost House, as it is commonly known, had me hooked from the first page; in fact the house is so central to the story that it is a character in its own right!

Lightning Falls acquired its name from the extraordinary waterfall to which it is adjacent; a former grand manor house which is now a tourist destination for ghost hunters attracted by the “creaks and the squeaks” who often arrive clutching their “fifty-per-cent-off promotional vouchers from the Ghostwatchers’ Express”! Owned by Lord Rory, described as an adventurer, its only other human inhabitants are Mrs Peters the housekeeper, Leon the receptionist and Ted the chef. However, the main attractions are the ghosts of former ancestors of Lord Rory and deceased staff, who together make an extraordinary family for Valerie, the first-person narrator of the tale.

One of the main themes running through the story is Valerie’s search for her identity and origins, her solitary clue being the pendant that she was found with. She lives with the hollow feeling of always wondering who left her behind at the hotel as a toddler. She has been brought up to believe that she is a “hallowed ghost”, she exhibits many human characteristics alongside the abilities to remain invisible to humans and float alongside her ghostly best friend, Meg. The warm family relationships with which Valerie is supported by her ghostly and human companions are beautifully and believably written and greatly add to the enjoyment of this fantasy mystery.

As the story begins, Lightning Falls is being besieged by Star Storms which are having a serious impact on the hotel guests. Then a mysterious boy appears, sitting on the ruined viaduct which runs across the raging river, with threads of lightning appearing from his fingers. Valerie is determined to discover whether he is the cause of the storms, but when she confronts him she finds that he holds the keys to unlock her past.

I won’t give away any spoilers because I don’t want to ruin anyone’s enjoyment of this glittering and magical tale. Lightning Falls is a wonderful story for children of 9+ to add to their fantasy and Halloween reading lists and I appreciated the fact that it is not too scary; I know that 9-year-old me would have enjoyed this very much without the nightmares that accompanied some ghost stories! The themes of family taking many forms and the importance of valuing every individual for themselves independent of labels, appealed to me as I’m sure it will do many others in the light of conversations around allyship and inclusion. Finally, a big thank you to the Primary School Bookclub members who have opened my eyes to the magical writing of Amy Wilson, I now have another collection of books to add to my ever-growing TBR stack!

3 thoughts on “Lightning Falls by Amy Wilson, illustrated by Rachel Vale and Helen Crawford-White

  1. I have this and really need to read it as it sounds just my kind of story! The first of Amy’s book I read was Snowglobe which I’d highly recommend. I’ve also really enjoyed A Girl Called Owl and Shadows of Winterspell.

    Liked by 1 person

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