Review: The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie by Yvonne Banham

Written by  Yvonne Banham
Cover Illustration by Nathan Collins
Published by Firefly Press

The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie is a deliciously dark, spine-tingling, supernatural adventure that completely enthralled me.    

When twelve-year-old Delores Mackenzie is chased along the causeway linking Cramond Island to the Scottish mainland by a Bòcan – an angry spirit intent on harming her – her older sister Delilah, helps her to keep it out of their home, a home that they share without their parents who have disappeared a year before, leaving just a note for their daughters.

Delores comes from a family with supernatural abilities and, when her sister is assigned a position with the Psychic Adjustment Society in Norway, Delores finds herself unwillingly sent to stay with the mysterious Uncles in Edinburgh Old Town.  Under their tutelage, she is to learn to control her dark and dangerous gift – necromancy – so that she doesn’t risk allowing spirits drawn to her energy to return to the living plane. 

On entering the Tolbooth Book Store where she is to both live and learn, Delores meets two others with paranormal abilities:  Prudence, an illusionist, who is rude, sarcastic and unfriendly; and, Gabriel, a seer, who is more welcoming.  Sitting down for dinner with the Uncles Oddvar and Solas, and Gabriel and Prudence, Delores is subjected to some real nastiness from Prudence but, when she is in danger of getting hurt, she gets help from an unexpected source:  the spirit of a young girl who gives her a warning before disappearing. 

And so begins a dark, tense and spine-tingling mystery as Delores fights to stop a truly terrifying spirit from returning to the living plane, a spirit who feeds on Delores’s energy, who has unfinished business with another, and who needs something that Delores has to anchor her in this world.  When the lives of new friends are threatened, will Delores have the courage and strength to save them, and herself, from this sinister apparition?  Does she really have the ability to push back the dead when they threaten the living?

Oh my goodness!  This was a brilliantly dark and spooky read that sent shivers down my spine as I became completely gripped by the mystery and the race to save friends before they were lost forever.  I loved the unexpected twists and turns, the danger and threat from both spectres and the Council which oversees the Paranormals.  This is a world that I am eager to return to, so I really hope there is more to come from Delores Mackenzie! 

The setting is just perfect for this gothic delight and the writing conveys the tense, eerie atmosphere, with its danger and threat, exceptionally:  the bookstore overlooking the kirkyard, the underground vaults and Edinburgh Old Town with its ghostly, gory history not to mention the hoar frost, cobwebs, spiders and dolls – chilling and spinetingling, perfect for upper middle-grade and beyond.  I have lots of children in my Year 6 class who are looking for books with a darker edge, and this is exactly the kind of book that will appeal.

Delores is a wonderfully sympathetic protagonist who is determined to help a young friend when she most needs it.  She shows courage and strength in standing up for herself, in learning to control her abilities and in facing a malevolent spirit.   She is looking for a place where she feels she belongs and where she can find real friendship with those who understand her. And I just have to mention Bartleby who I adored – grumpy, rude but with a heart of gold and a sweet tooth! 

This is a must-read for those of 10+ who enjoy darker, spookier adventures that are guaranteed to bring shivers of delight – and just the right amount of fright!

Thank you for Firefly Press for a proof copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

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