The Last Of The Spirits – Chris Priestley

9781408854136

Blurb: “On the bleak streets of London, Sam is freezing and hungry. When he is rudely refused help by Ebenezer Scrooge, Sam vows to kill the selfish man. But later, while Sam is huddled in a graveyard, a ghost warns him of the terrible fate that awaits if he chooses the path of murder. And so Sam begins  journey led by terrifying spirits through past, present and future. After which he must decide his own destiny.”

I found this book when I was browsing through the Christmas sales on Bloomsbury’s website. The second I saw this utterly gorgeous cover I was intrigued. When I discovered that is is a re-imagining of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, I had to get it.

Before I delve into the initial plot and my overall thoughts, I just want to point out something that really annoyed me about this book. From the blurb you can see that a boy called Sam is an important, central character to the book. However, on the cover you can see two children, and in the story Sam has a sister who, for some reason, is not mentioned on the blurb. It kind of threw me off a bit, I will admit.

So this story follows homeless orphans Sam and Lizzie who wander the streets of London looking for someone to give them a little bit of hope during this Christmas time. They fall into the path of the notorious Scrooge and when he rather impolitely refuses to help, Sam is overcome with a desire to kill this foul man. They seek refuge for the night in a graveyard where the spirit of a ghost – Scrooge’s old partner Marely – appears and warns Sam of what will happen if he continues down the dark path he is contemplating. Marely says that he will give Scrooge the chance to change and will send three ghosts (the ghosts of past, present, and future) to help him see the error of his ways. Through certain circumstances Sam and Lizzie try to catch the spirits in the act and Sam ends up seeing some of what the ghosts show Scrooge. The ghost of the future then turns on Sam and shows him what the future will be for him and his sister if he does kill Scrooge.

As you can see, it’s quite a dark, festive read but also very short (166 pages).

Sam and Lizzie are very different children. Lizzie, despite their situation, is quite accepting of the injustice they have, and continue to, receive, lucky that simply she is alive. On the other hand, Sam has grown to be a bitter young boy, believing that he deserves a lot more than what has been handed to him and is determined to change his life. It made for more of an interesting narrative with the focus being on him, but I did feel like Lizzie was a very swept-under-the-rug minor character despite being involved in quite a big portion of the story (And being part of the reason Sam inevitably changes).

I understood the hatred Sam possessed but it felt a bit too much at times for me and Lizzie just seeming to miss some of the important plot moments was disappointing. It would have been nice to see some of her thoughts and be more of a part of the moral journey her brother took rather than becoming essentially an after-thought.

One thing I love about adaptations of a novel that already exists is links to the original and there are quite a few such as the focus on the Cratchit family who still play that ever vital part in this book.

And of course, the overall moral of the story is still there.
Now I’m going to put on my over-sized hoodie, sit by the fire and read another book!

 

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