Publication Date: 3 September 2021
A new boy arrives at the Ash House.
He can’t remember his name – or why he’s been sent there. Given the name Sol, and troubled by a mystery pain that no medicine can cure, he joins the gang of children living in the shadows of the secretive house, doing what they can to survive. Soon, however, there’s more for the children of the Ash House to face – unless Sol’s new-found friendships can defeat the darkness that descends with the arrival of the Doctor …
With hints of Lord Of The Flies, Mrs Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and The Hunger Games, The Ash House is a deliciously dark, dystopian fantasy that is as unsettling as it is unputdownable.
From the moment we meet The Ash House’s latest resident, we are as baffled as he is as to why he is there and why the Nicenesses that every one else is named after are so important. The cult like regime that they all follow at the wishes of the Headmaster, who has been gone for some time, grows steadily more unnerving as we learn more about the children’s lives. But, it is the arrival of the Doctor that really cranks the tension up.
The shifting dynamics between the characters echo the mood of the story. Sol quickly realises that he needs friends if he is going to survive in the Ash House, and learns not to judge people at face value once he starts to understand the place he finds himself in. All named after Nicenesses, the children who live at Ash House are suspicious of the newcomer as he mocks their daily routines of school and work.
Themes of medical experimentation, cults, belonging and rebellion, mean there is much to discuss beyond the story, not least the ending, which I will say no more about…
Given the themes, this is definitely going on my Year 6 only shelf. You can read an extract here.
Great for fans of:
The Guest Post: My favourite writing spots in London by Angharad Walker
Hi there, Miss Cleveland readers! I hope you like the sound of The Ash House—the story of a boy who finds himself living at the house made of ash and smoke, with a group of other children living by the strict rules set by their mysterious, missing Headmaster…
To thank Miss Cleveland for her support, I thought I’d share some of my favourite places to write on the blog today.
Nowadays I have a lovely study to write in at home in South London. I’m writing this at my double-length desk, and I’m surrounded by a stack of notebooks, a framed print of the US and UK covers of The Ash House, and an asparagus fern named Steve. But when I need a change of scene (and who doesn’t after a year of lockdowns?) I try to take advantage of all the wonderful writing places the city has to offer.
Here are some of my favourites from over the years. In fact, I worked on The Ash House at each of these spots…
1. The Tooting Bec Common Café
The best part of London has to be its parks, and the last year or two has made us all the more grateful for them. I live near Tooting Bec Common, 150 acres of fields woodland, lakes and play areas… sometimes you completely forget you’re in a city here. A tiny café sits at the heart of it with outdoor seating. I take any chance to write outside, so as soon as it’s dry, I’ll go there. It also has the added bonus of lots of friendly dogs walking by to say hello to.
2. The Wellcome Library
The Wellcome Library is probably my favourite London library. I wrote most of my second book here, which is coming out in September 2022. But I also did a lot of the edits for The Ash House here. It’s quiet, light and has endless stacks of fascinating books on the history medicine. If anything, the books are a bit of a distraction… but a very welcome one!
3. Mousetail Coffee in the John Harvard Library (Borough)
Before I was a published author, I used to work as a copywriter at a creative studio in Borough. The best part of it was the library around the corner from the studio. It has a huge café at the front. It’s best early in the morning—I’d get there first thing to write for an hour or two before work. I loved being able to look up from the page and watch the busy high street whizz by.
4. Gower Street Waterstones
When I was freelancing as a copywriter, my work took me all over the city and I would work on The Ash House during lunch breaks or before or after work. I was always happy to find myself in Fitzrovia or Euston, because it meant I could visit this Waterstones and the wonderful café on the side of it. It’s near University College London, so it’s always full of other writers and students hard at work.
5. The Barbican Library
London has no shortage of awe-inspiring spots to write in. Something about being in the Barbican, a hub music, theatre, art and learning, is really energising. There’s also a great music library if you need an inspiration boost. They run lots of fantastic programmes and clubs for the local community to give more people access to the arts—you can support them here.
Huge thanks to Chicken House for sending me an uncorrected proof, and inviting me to take part in the Blog Tour. Do make sure you check out all of the other stops.