Publisher: Union Square Kids
Number of pages: 280
Publishing: October 10th, 2023
Source: Edelweiss +
Opening Line: "Theo was alone again."
Twelve-year-old Theo Tatterly is a medium, able to communicate with the dead and perform exorcisms. He lives with his dead Great-Aunt Trudy Anne and his Aunt Torie, who is "very much alive." Theo and his extended family of cousins, aunts and his great-grandmother have lived in their 100-year-old family mansion in Charleston for many years, although the original deed to Tatterly House has gone missing. Theo's family possess many different skills, some relatives can read aura's, make premonitions, perform telekinesis, are psychic or see visions. Having the ability to see ghosts sets Theo apart from the other kids at Robert Smalls School for Excellence, but he doesn't seem to mind being a loner at school so much. His primary friend is his cousin Issa, who can be possessed by ghosts. Theo acts as her shadow and protector because she can't see the ghosts and he can, so Theo's job is to makes sure that their possession doesn't do Issa any harm. Then one day, while at the Aquarium, Theo has a run in with a malevolent spirit, Kiyoberu (the crying woman) whose grief over some great injustice Theo finds must be rectified so that she can pass on. But Kiyoberu might be under the control of another, and soon Theo finds he could be up against a demon or demigod. As the last male of the Tatterly line, it's up to Theo to save their family home and community.
The threads of The Fall of the House of Tatterly aren't all tied together at first and the story starts off with different plots and an unclear direction. Is this about the hag that Theo encounters, the missing deed, or Patrick, a boy who is also missing? Is Theo going to bring down the Tatterly House? Or will he save everyone from the spirit that is stealing the souls of children? After about the halfway point, things begin to be pieced together and the conclusion draws everything back together. The magic system of Hoodoo is interesting to read about, Theo learns how to make a gris-gris bag and is given a pet snake for protection. Being pestered by ghosts, who end up being your relatives is amusing and I quite enjoyed Theo's relationship with his Great Aunt Trudy Anne, there's a lot of mutual respect and encouragement from her. I really enjoyed the multigenerational family and setting. I also found the story to be educational, covering the Massacre Riot of 1919 (or The Red Summer) and delving into slavery, the DNA of black people and how their names were changed or stolen. There's mention of the Paddy Rollers, who in the story eat the souls of ghosts and is a demon created from the cursed slave catchers. I see that the release date has been changed from August to October, perhaps the publisher and author are making some edits to refine the story. Overall, this is a story stepped in history, culture, folklore and one boy who is fighting for his ancestorial home.
I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE