Dear Mr. Joseph Delaney,
One of the reasons I read the series was for the spookiness that was promised me on the blurbs. That is why I read seven of the eight books. If that doesn’t count as giving it a try, I don’t know what does. While—yes—I was entertained by the gloom and doom and the varied creatures the dark found in every book, not a single one scared me. Or maybe I’m passed that age. Read: I am not one of your target readers, guess that’s why I feel immune to the magic you weave in the pages. That’s why I gave up before I got the urge to buy the eighth.
Well, disappointment aside, I decided to give The Spook’s Bestiary a try.
For some years now, I have been coming across various bestiaries. And most of them are really big books, large and wide with illustrations that consume whole pages. And a number of them are colored!
My copy is the 2011 hardbound edition. I believe you know what that one looks and feels like. It’s a thin book, even thinner when compared to your books from the series. It’s neither large nor wide. The illustrations—though beautiful pencil works—are cramped to corners or, at best, half a page. It doesn’t do any of them justice. The details of the monsters, demons, and other creatures are lost to the size they are rendered with or cropped to. With such diminutive dimension, it’s not like they’ll pop out of the page but they’re just a view of the fraction of the actual image. How I wish that wasn’t so.
But annotations were a surprising touch! They made me nostalgic about the Apprentice stories I read. Plus, they made other apprentices, besides Tom, seem real. It’s like you gave them a voice when they had none in the actual series. But they seem too contrived because of where and how they were spaced in the pages. It’s like, when John Gregory wrote the bestiary, he expected other Spooks and apprentices to write notes on it so he left a great amount of space. Perhaps, too great amount of space. They weren’t distracting. Not to me, at least. But they stopped being surprising when I began noticing the paragraphing and the layout of the book.
Since I mentioned distracting, what is the point of all those dead things in the book? Portents against the dark? They are supposed to be dead, right? And the bones and the hair? Are they meant to be real or illustrations as well?
And, before I end this letter, I’d like to tell you that—of everything in the book—I enjoyed the last two stories the best: “The Cawley Stone Crawler” and “The Mystery of the Creeping Vine.” Even without pencil art, even apart from the bestiary, I believe I would’ve loved them the same. Short. Haunting. Beautiful.