‘Orla and the Serpent’s Curse,’by C. J. Haslam, cover by Paddy Donnelly.

Chris Haslam is Chief Travel Writer at The Sunday Times, writer of black comedy thrillers for adults and now the author of his first book for children: ‘Orla and the Serpent’s Curse.’


Orla and her family head to a secluded Cornish cottage for they hope will be a relaxing break away from the hustle and bustle of London. However, when Orla’s inquisitive streak takes her and her self-appointed security guard, family dog Dave, on a walk through the woods, things take a turn for the strange. Orla barely misses being flattened by the freak falling of an ancient tree, then uncovers a glowing red necklace hidden nearby.

She soon discovers that the local historical society is actually a front for a coven of witches striving to stop the deadly effects of an ancient curse which is poisoning the land and causing mysterious deaths. The local pellers (Cornish witches) believe that Orla could be key to breaking the curse.

But with dark magic at play and Dave the dog starting to feel a strange dislike for Orla, will the intrepid young girl be able to stop it before anyone close to her loses their lives?

Although this is dubbed as being like The Famous Five with a gang of children and their plucky dog righting wrongs and discovering treasures, that is where the similarities end. Anyone hoping for a quaint adventure with mild peril need to find another book!

This story immediately takes a sinister twist and is filled with dark magic and spells which may be frightening to younger readers. I myself was hooked after the first couple of chapters but I would definitely only recommended this for older middle grade readers and tweens.

The use of time-slips and conjurings to weave together the threads of the tragic story of wronged witch Pedervander Mazey and our heroine, Orla, added to the sense of threat and slowly ratcheted up the tension – which hit fever pitch by the final few chapters!

A cracking read for anyone wanting a slightly witchier than usual MG read! 10+

Library Girl

*Thank you to Walker Books for sending me this title to review*

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