The Ash House by Angharad Walker was odd, interesting, and a little disturbing. Overall, I enjoyed the hauntingly atmospheric style and the pristine imagery she portrayed with her writing, but the story itself was darker than I expected it to be.
The main character is a boy who comes to Ash House in the hopes that he will find a cure for his complex pain syndrome. But instead, he finds a group of boys and girls named after “Nicenesses,” and no adult to take care of them. Their Headmaster has apparently been gone for three years. Since the new boy can no longer use the name he came to Ash House with, he is given the “Nice” name of Solitude.
Though the other children, particularly Freedom (Dom for short) desperately want him to love Ash House as much as they do. Solitude (Sol) can’t let go of the feeling that there’s something wrong with Ash House. After all, he was told it was a place where children like him could be cured. But the longer he remains at Ash House, the more he comes to realize the opposite is true: At Ash House, you are not allowed to get sick, or be sick. Ever. Because if you’re sick, the Doctor will come. And no one wants that.
Overall, this was a dark book with a sort of confusing but hopeful ending, and it reminded me a little bit of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, or The Toymaker by Jeremy de Quidt.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Chicken House
Profanity/Language: 1 religious exclamation.
Violence/Gore: Many instances of violence and gore, including but not limited to: A boy has flashbacks about undergoing various types of tests in a hospital; a boy suffers frequent spasmodic pains in his back that often make him pass out; a character forgets his name; a character has been missing for three years; characters gang up on a new child; report of a character dying; characters hunt and skin animals; characters frequently utter threats against a single character; characters bury a dead animal; characters fight, and one character is struck in the stomach with a shovel, and knocked into a hole with a dead animal; a boy has occasional nightmares; characters are confronted by a monster; characters have occasional verbal arguments and physical fights; a character becomes paralyzed; a boy finds a room full of taxidermized animals; characters are accused of breaking into a forbidden area; characters are forced to undergo a deadly race from the monsters as punishment for breaking the rules; a character is dreadfully injured, with some description of blood and gore (not overly descriptive); a character is cornered by a monster and wounds it in the eye with a piece of glass; a character suffers from split personality; a boy is attacked and bitten by a monster; a boy hurts his hands; report of a character having night terrors; report of an older character accidentally killing a younger character; a boy strikes a man with a picture frame; a boy is nearly throttled to death; a character stabs a man in the foot; a monster is killed; a character is knocked over and his face is bloody; a monster kills a maniacal character; a character is believed to suffer from hallucinations.
Sex/Nudity: Characters reminisce how boys and girls used to live together, before being separated into dorms; a boy tries to get into the girls’ dormitory against the rules.
Mature Subject Matter:
Death of a friend; Mental disorders; Abandonment; Physical child abuse; Illness; Verbal child abuse.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Report of a character being given a sleeping draught; a character is put under for a surgery.