Thursday, November 02, 2023

The Fall of the House of Tatterly

Miles, Shanna. The Fall of the House of Tatterly
October 10, 2023 by Union Square Kids
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Theo Tatterly lives in a magical version of Charleston, South Carolina. He lives with his aunts after his mother dropped him off there when she was reeling from the death of his father in Afghanistan. Theo can see and talk to ghosts, and frequently uses his family's powers to help the ghosts cross over. Recently, though, something is odd with the ghosts, and his cousin Issa, who is often used as a vehicle for ghosts, has had problems. The two are involved in an incident at the local Aquarium that ends with it being blown up. They are more worried about the ghost they have found there, and the possibility of a Hag they worry will come back than they are about getting trouble at home. There's plenty of trouble at the House of Tatterly, a mansion that has been in the family for generations after being reclaimed by the formerly enslaved Tatterlys from the original family. The area has seen an influx of realtors and people wanting to gentrify the area, and there is a problem with finding the original deed, so that aunts are worried that they might lose the house. They also strongly suspect there is a property demon, but haven't ever heard of one. Theo's cousin Femi has problems of his own, since his dad is in the custody of the Global Magic Authority, but he wants to help Theo. Theo also enlists some classmates from his school, Robert Smalls School for Excellence, and finds an odd comfort in the snake, Rupert, that the family gives him as a familiar. He eventually finds out that the ghost at the Aquarium is an especially nasty type; a kiyoberu who often harms children. Theo and Issa's investigations uncover a lot of family and local history, most of it with unpleasant roots in the troubled racist past of the area. Will they be able to use their magic to save the house, and themselves?
Strengths: Theo's feelings about his family are complex, and for good reason! He's glad that his aunts took him in, but misses his parents. He's glad to go to a magical school (bonus points for naming it for Robert Smalls!), but doesn't feel that he's getting as much instruction as he needs. He relationship with his cousins is strong, and they help each other out. There are a wide variety of ghosts and monsters that need to be fought, and I liked how the kids worked together to figure out how to systematically irradicate them. Very nice Southern feel; if I feel damp on a temperate day here in Ohio, I know that the descriptions are very evocative of the Southern heat and humidity!
Weaknesses: I had trouble getting a good feel for the magical world, but since I sometimes struggle with fantasy, that might be more of a weakness in my perception rather than in the book. I did wonder if the Tatterly's magical world was aligned with any specific culture; there is a brief mention of Gullahs which intrigued me, but I had trouble pinning down any particular connection. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like their magic to have a Southern flavor to it and enjoyed books like Strong's Eden's Everdark, Rhodes' Bayou Magic, Royce's Conjour Island, Smith's HooDoo, or Stringfellow's Comb of Wishes

Ms. Yingling

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