Book Review – Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw

books, reviews

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I don’t know what’s happened to me lately. I’ve been on an absolute roll with my reading and have a bit of a review backlog. It’s a really new and great feeling. Especially considering the past few months haven’t gone as I’d expected. I had a few books that I definitely wanted to get through last month and I managed a few of them. Top of the list was this beauty that was published during the month. It just sounded like such a fun Halloween book and I’m a huge fan of the film. But would the book actually be any good?

Tim Burton has such a unique perspective that taking over his story was also going to be tricky. Still, I had hopes that Shea Ernshaw’s novel would be fun. It certainly sounded like it had a lot of potential and, if it got the tone right, would be a suitably spooky and weird tale. It was all going so well. At least until I started reading it. This is supposedly a YA novel but it reads like Middle-Grade. I was waiting for it to get more sophisticated but it didn’t. The synopsis promised nightmares but it’s so tame. I just got a bit bored. Not only was the story basic but there was no real danger. The villain wasn’t even really a villain. Nothing about this book made it clear why it needed to exist beyond a shameless cash grab.

Although, it didn’t start off too terribly. I quite liked getting the chance to see inside the other holiday doors. It just went downhill from there. As soon as Sally accidentally lets a mysterious figure into Halloween Town, things just get very repetitive and unoriginal. Ernshaw takes phrases and endlessly repeats them. Like Sally’s stuffing. How often do we need to be reminded of the dried leaves inside her patchwork body? I guess the repetition wouldn’t feel like such a bad thing had there been more depth. There’s just not a lot to this book because it’s far too quick. It doesn’t allow for any time for any themes to develop.

I always have a bit of an issue with authors taking on someone else’s character. It’s impossible for them to ever get it right, especially when you take on such beloved characters. I know this book was an attempt to give Sally more of a voice and more depth. However, I felt her characterisation was just way off here. We know Sally as someone who is willing to take a risk to do the right thing. She is brave and clever. She lacked that craftiness and independence here. She spends all of the book whining about Jack not being there with her. Is that supposed to be an improvement? The Sally we see here is a simpering mess. Then there’s her backstory. I didn’t like it that much. I actually think it takes something away from her. It was just all a bit silly and added nothing to her character.

Talking of silly, there’s a weird moment when Sally witnesses Queen Elizabeth II sleeping. It was an embarrassingly fawning section that really added nothing to the story. It might not have helped that the UK is still in a weird state of mourning but this part made me cringe. It added nothing to the story and didn’t need to be there. At least that section didn’t include any awful attempts to copy Tim Burton’s talent for creepiness. You can see that Ernshaw is trying very hard to be weird but it doesn’t work. It just feels forced and awkward. If we think of this as fanfiction then I’m happy with it. It’s not great but it’s fine. If we’re meant to consider this canon then I have a problem.

It’s not just that I’m disappointed with this book. It’s that it’s badly written, badly paced and overly simplistic. It doesn’t seem to know why it exists or who is meant to be reading it. The book is classed as YA but has been written for children. It’s obviously intended for fans of the film but it gets a lot of key things wrong. This was never going to be a masterpiece but it could have been a fun book. It needed to be handled way more carefully than this. Yet again, Disney has put profits ahead of quality.

3 thoughts on “Book Review – Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw

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