Edwin is suffering a severe case of sibling jealousy, coping with a new house, school and baby sister, when he answers a strange pen pal advert from an old piece of paper found in his new bedroom. When his new penfriend, Lanthorne Ghules, a mysterious, small, grey-skinned boy with a skeletal look, appears through the back of his wardrobe, Edwin’s life takes a disturbing new direction. Drawn into Lanthorne’s ‘Dead World’ via a portal in a cupboard, Edwin discovers a strange, colourless land with threatening inhabitants, two-headed monsters, putrid food, creepy houses and the constant threat of being eaten as a “shiner” from another world. Edwin’s resolve never to return, despite Lanthorne’s desperate need for a friend, is broken when his despised baby sister, Mandoline, is kidnapped by Lanthorne’s wicked Aunt Necra. The two friends set out to rescue her, undertaking a perilous journey through the dead world.
This book cleverly mixes humour, fear and gruesome details in a blend that should capture the imaginations of young readers with strong stomachs who will relish the brilliantly created atmosphere of doom, menace, secrecy and rottenness in the dead world. Edwin is an excellent character, full of fear, anger, defiance and courage, often all at once, and with a humorous and sharply irreverent turn of phrase. Kind, gentle thoughtful Lanthorne acts as the perfect foil as Edwin learns the value of friendship, trust and family love throughout his determined quest to rescue his baby sister. This would be a perfect Halloween read for children who enjoy a mix of fun, scares, creepiness, grisly details and exciting adventure.