tales of terror from the black ship

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Tales of Terror from the Black Ship

by Chris Priestly

Illustrations by David Roberts

Bloomsbury, 2008.

Hardcover, 243 pages

I will never look at snails the same way again. –Thank You Chris Priestly for adding another neurosis, and Thank You Carl V. for the book recommendation.

I am not one who boasts a fearlessness when opening a book of scary stories meant for children. I’ve learned my lesson, but I didn’t think Priestly’s Tales of Terror from the Black Ship was going to get me, especially after the mysterious Thackeray’s first tale. Sticking with the read I was eventually rewarded by becoming both grossed out and properly horrified. It is my fondest wish that after reading this book, you will feel the same.

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is a collection of scary stories set at sea, or involving the sea-faring. The stories are woven into a narrative involving a boy, Ethan, and his younger sister, Cathy, who are left ailing and alone at the family Inn while their father is fetching medicine for them. A stranger comes and due to the fierceness of the storm outside, they feel obliged to let him stay until it passes. Thackeray is a suspicious figure, but he keeps the morbid children entertained with stories of the macabre (their favorite). Between tales, the interactions between characters create a growing sense of unease. It doesn’t help either that the stories themselves become increasingly scary. And after Thackeray has finished his last tale for the evening, there is yet one more tale of terror to be finished, it had been drawing itself out.

The tale I found the most delicious in sensation? The Scrimshaw Imp. The Monkey had me laughing in that hysterical way; nice, and terrifying. Nature and The Boy in the Boat had wonderfully grotesque moments and lingering unease. I did appreciate the overall story, though I admit there were times I felt the Tales and tales went on a bit long; which is likely due to my impatience or those anxiety-induced moments of “oh dear, there’s more!?” Oh, but the ending is nicely done, Priestly’s devisements work.

The addition of David Roberts’ illustrations are delectable. They are wonderfully Edward Gorey-esque. Each tale is given an illustration incorporating a title, a more seamless way to mind how the tales are all part of a greater story. And you’ll be looking forward (with some trepidation) to the full page illustration that comes with each story. They capture the mood and are always worth lingering upon.

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is the second in a series of Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly. Unfortunately, the Library here only had this one. I am assured that the first book Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is brilliant (and likely better). I’ll be looking forward to the others. If you are curious about them, check out Carl V.’s reviews for Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror and Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth. You’re sure to be persuaded to try one of these volumes, if not all—even if that means adding a new fear of something.


>>>note: this book can be pretty gorey and violent–a bit of a given. However, like Carl, I feel a caution is necessary on the language; ” for a book that is published for children, I was a little taken aback by the amount of swearing and by a few sexual remarks.” I agree with Carl when he suggests it fits the coarseness of the setting/lifestyle. The book being published in the UK first might have to do with it as well. But a caution just the same, at least for the 8 and change crowd.


this has most definitely been considered a Reader’s Imbibing Peril (RIP) VI read.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Carl V. says:

    Ahhhh….so glad you found this a deliciously dark treat! You’ve been bitten by the Chris Priestly bug, and soon you’ll have read the other two volumes and then you’ll be just like me, achingly longing for more!!!

    Of all three volumes this one was my least favorite and yet I adore the book, so that tells you just how great the other two are. There are simply not enough similar stories out there (that I have discovered anyway) written by contemporary authors. These are just so creepy and dark but not too dark, if you know what I mean.

    I’m taking Uncle Montague with us on our late November camping trip so that I can read tales out of it to Mary and Tori while sitting around the fire. Cannot wait!

    I am in total agreement about David Roberts’ illustrations. That man is channeling the spirit of Edward Gorey for certain. I think they add a sense of dread to the book. I miss Edward Gorey and am thrilled that there is someone out there like Roberts who is putting his unique spin on illustration while keeping that sort of illustration alive and well.

    Hoping Priestly has more short story ideas and continues with the series.

  2. Carl’s review sent me looking for these books, too, and my library didn’t/doesn’t have any of them. So I promptly forgot about them. Then, only a few days ago, I saw that Amazon currently has Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror on sale for $1.99 for the Kindle, so I bought it immediately. I’ve not started it yet, but I aim to soon.

    Seems I recall you saying you had a Nook? I don’t really know how e-books work, but it’s currently still on the cheap if you’re interested.

    Great review. No you & Carl both have me eager to read this dark work.

  3. Carl V. says:

    When Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth came out last year I could no longer resist and bought hardcover copies of the first two books on Half.com for a very reasonable price. They are the kind of books I will (and have) read again and again and so it was silly of me to resist any longer.

  4. Kailana says:

    I really want to read more from Chris Priestly. I have only read one book by him in the past.

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