The Secret of Drearcliff Grange School
By Kim Newman
Author’s Website: https://johnnyalucard.com/
A week after Mother found her sleeping on the ceiling, Amy Thomsett is delivered to her new school, Drearcliff Grange in Somerset. Although it looks like a regular boarding school, Amy learns that Drearcliff girls are special, the daughters of criminal masterminds, outlaw scientists and master magicians. Several of the pupils also have special gifts like Amy’s, and when one of the girls in her dormitory is abducted by a mysterious group in black hoods, Amy forms a secret, superpowered society called the Moth Club to rescue their friend. They soon discover that the Hooded Conspiracy runs through the School, and it’s up to the Moth Club to get to the heart of it.
The story starts off with Amanda “Amy” Thomsett arriving to Drearcliff Grange, a boarding school for girls, located in an actual cliff. Like the summary reads, Amy is sent there by her mother after she finds her sleeping on the ceiling more than once. Amy struggles to keep herself anchor to the earth, as she has the ability to float and make other things float. Once she arrives to Drearcliff Grange and is delivered to her new dorm and cell, she meets the girls that will be her lifelong friends: Serafine Walmergrave (Frecks), whose parents were spies, but were killed; Kali Chattopadhyay, a girl from Kafiristan sent away by her father after killing his own wife; and Emma Naisbitt (Light Fingers), whose parents are thieves and are in jail. The girls ask Amy why she was sent to school in the middle of the autumn semester. When she hesitates to reply, they come to the conclusion that she is what they call, an Unusual. To Amy’s surprise, Light Fingers is also an Unusual, as she is very fast.
It doesn’t take long for Amy to learn that Drearcliff Grange is a very different school from the others that she has attended before. There are so many rules and regulations to follow, and other girls to look out for. While she is not the only Unusual, not all the Ordinary girls are so good as her friends. Her ability and knowledge of moths comes in handy when her friend Kali is kidnapped by a group of hooded men, and a girl of the school lies about Kali escaping from school on her own. Amy and her friends decide to form the Moth club and with their abilities they find and rescue their friend.
While the purpose of the club was fulfilled when finding Kali, other strange things start to happen in Drearcliff Grange; a mysterious girl arrives, a ghost appears, and the fashion of the Drearcliff Grange girls starts to change. Now it is up to the Moth club and the other Unusuals of the school to save the other girls from having ants in their pants.
I liked the storyline of The Secret of Drearcliff Grange School, and while it was a little hard to follow at the beginning, it gives the feeling that the reader is also learning the ropes and the language of the school as Amy does. It was fun to learn the names and nicknames that the girls give to each other and the school staff, it was clearly a self-preservation thing and to give the girls a feeling of power over each other’s, with the purpose of making their stay in Drearcliff Grange bearable.
At the beginning of the story, I thought that a lot of the things that the girls said were lies to impress each other, and that Amy was being made fun of; but I was wrong and most of the things that they gossiped ended up being true. Drearcliff Grange has many rules and it was fun learning about them as Amy did.
Like many books, you forget how old the characters are, as many of them act much older than what they are. At the same time, in this story there were scenes where the girls acted according to their age, and needed the guidance of others to know they were on the right path. Like Frecks mentions at the beginning, most of the girls at Drearcliff Grange don’t have the full set of parents, and had to mature faster than others.
Meeting the different Unusuals and learning about their abilities was the part that I liked the best. Some of them already knew how to use their abilities, but it was fun as they all practiced and came to accept that they were special in their own way, and shouldn’t hide themselves. While all the girls were interesting and fun to read, my favorite character was Polly Palgraive. Whatever inhabit her is a mystery that I would like to know.
Many of the challenges that the girls had to overcome were not all evil, some of them were personal, and others were based on their upbringing. Like all girls in boarding schools, they stay within their own dorm groups and sometimes didn’t pay attention to what happened to the other girls from different dorms. This was one of the things that Amy learned to pay attention to, when things started turning “black”.
The Secret of Drearcliff Grange School is a very interesting and fun book to read, if you are a fan of other books from author Kim Newman, then you are going to like this one. In this book, Newman creates a world where a school teaches girls to be more than the average girl and to be prepared for what the real world needs from them: either a detective, a vigilante, a spy, or even a crime lord. Drearcliff Grange School has many secrets to see and unusual things for you to meet.