Author: Hayden Thorne
Publisher: Queerteen Press (JMS Books)
Pages/Word Count: 236 Pages
At a Glance: Beautiful descriptions in what feels like a timeless setting, but a little slow paced for me.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: The moment Emil Gogean sets foot inside Wollstone Academy’s fairy tale-like campus, he realizes his freshman year in high school is bound to be a very strange one. The school itself, a uniquely romanticized boarding school for boys, boasts remarkable elements that appear to be deliberate — as though a hidden power has chosen woodland details, a chapel ruin, and school masters who seem to hearken back to a long-gone age, with a clear purpose in mind.
When strange things begin to happen to Emil, an unnerving warning from his late grandmother returns to haunt him. A warning about Emil attracting the attention of the king of the dead.
Strange faces in wood patterns and mullioned windows. The apparition of a boy among the trees. The unfathomable feeling of sadness permeating the idyllic environment. Emil gradually learns that Wollstone is more than just a school, that the answers to a three-hundred-year-old mystery surrounding a tragic romance lie in the ruined stones of a small chapel and in Nature itself. And that Emil, whose appearance in school has set certain wheels in motion, will have to place himself at the mercy of three mysterious students if he wishes to learn the truth about Wollstone, the boy lost in the woods, and himself.
Review: If there is an author who writes more beautiful descriptions of a setting, I would be hard-pressed to find them. I had known of Hayden Thorne for several years before finally having the opportunity to sit down and read one of the author’s novels. Wollstone is a beautifully descriptive novel of an all boys school in the middle of a woodland.
It’s clear that this author excels at setting. Everything is so vivid I felt as if I were there with Emil on campus, following him as he wandered the paths, found the chapel, and explored the woods. I often found myself sighing, wishing a place like that existed for me to explore. Especially the ruined chapel on the school grounds. How amazing would it be to have something like that to explore?
That said, I did have difficulty with some of the novel. It is slower paced, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what I’m used to. I’m used to teen novels that have a faster pace to the plot. Thorne does not rush and lets the story unfold slowly. Sometimes a little too slowly, though it also invokes a timeless quality. There were several times when I forgot exactly when the story took place. It’s supposed to be the present, I think, but at the same time I felt as if I were in the fifties, or sometime else entirely. It could have been the descriptions of the uniforms and the attitude of the teachers, but that’s the effect it gave. And given the surroundings of the school, I think that was the author’s intent.
While I liked the characters, at times I struggled with the dialogue, which there isn’t much of. Emil is often alone—which is fine, I like characters who are introspective or loners—but he talks to himself a lot. There were times when he was muttering or saying things in situations where I felt that it just seemed strange for a fifteen-year-old boy to be saying or doing. That said, things also aren’t always what they appear. As the story progressed it did start to make sense to me, but it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that I caught on to things. I won’t give away more than that, because I don’t want to ruin anything, but the details are slowly revealed if you pay attention to everything, from Emil’s thoughts of his grandmother to the books he reads. However, some of the other characters also had similar dialogue that to me felt dated. As a teacher, I raised my eyebrow at some of their choice phrases, as I’ve never heard any of my boys say anything like Emil, Jamie, Victor, or the other boys. But, that could have also been the author’s choice to keep teenage vulgarities out of the writing.
That said, I did enjoy the novel. It was slow moving, but it brought me to a different time and place. I was transported onto a beautiful campus I wish I was a part of. Also, the cover? Absolutely gorgeous. Not that it influenced me or anything, but it’s exactly how I pictured the chapel to be. Whoever did the cover got it perfect.
You can buy Wollstone here: