Dread Wood – Flock Horror by Jennifer Killick

The Blurb On The Back:

Welcome to Dread Wood High.  

It’s a scream …

Angelo and his friends have already defeated some seriously creepy creatures. But there’s no time to chill as a terrifying new enemy appears in the skies … giant vampire birds that feast on BLOOD!

Have Club Loser met their match with this fearsome flock of bloodsucking beasts?  It’s time for the ultimate battle to take flight …

DREAD WOOD – FLOCK HORROR was released in the United Kingdom on 2nd March 2023.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order DREAD WOOD – FLOCK HORROR by Jennifer Killick from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s the summer, a couple of months after DREAD WOOD – FEAR GROUND.

Although 12-year-old Angelo and his friends Naira, Colette, Gus and Hallie defeated the Latchitts for the second time in March, the fact that the creepy pair upped their game by infecting Dread High’s pupils with parasitic worms that attached themselves to the brain stem has left all of them very wary and Angelo, in particular, is on edge.  

All of the members of Club Loser have been training, knowing that the Latchitts will be back.  But each of them has also been dealing with their own issues – Hallie’s dad is no longer in the office due to a work investigation, which is causing stress at home; Naira did not get 100% on all her exams and is stressed that she’s not studying hard enough; while Gus is having problems with the meds he takes to deal with his bowel condition.

When Raph wakes Angelo up in the middle of the night because something is violently banging against his window, Angelo decides to investigate.  Their mum is working a night shift and their dad has gone to check on a neighbour who phoned him asking for help so the boys are on their own but when Angelo leaves the flat he gets attacked and knocked out, waking up to find a note in his pocket that says LET GO OR LOSE IT ALL.

Club Loser knows that the Latchitts are gearing up for something, but with a sports day to attend and a summer ball to organise there are a lot of things taking up their attention and the last thing they’re expecting is for the next threat to be airborne because there is something very wrong with town’s birds …

The third in Jennifer Killick’s comedy horror quartet for readers aged 9+ raises the stakes with Club Loser facing real peril and serious injury and the horror is gorier.  I love how the diversity in this book is not a big deal here and a scene where Club Loser try on clothes for the school dance is a joy but I was less fond of how Killick introduces a conspiracy element to explain how the Latchitts are able to do some of the things they do.  

One of the big things I liked about this book is how Killick takes care to show that the Latchitts and their campaign against Club Loser is taking a psychological toll on the 12-year-olds.  They’re all edgy and waiting for the next attack and although it’s nice to see that some of the adults are supportive – notably Mr Canton and Angelo’s parents – the way that Killick expands out the campaign to attack the children through their families is genuinely chilling.

Also chilling are the vampire birds that the Latchitts have unleashed.  There’s a nice callback to DREAD WOOD – FEAR GROUND as she deals with the aftereffects of the brain worm attack with all of the children needing to have medical checks to make sure they’re free of the parasite and then builds it into the Latchitts’ latest attack.  The scenes where the birds attack are genuinely creepy and frightening and Killick creates a sense of peril as Club Loser do all suffer quite serious injuries at various parts of the book.

If you’re a cynical adult (like me) then you do wonder how the Latchitts are pulling off these various experiments as they were only school caretakers and have now lost their laboratory.  Killick addresses that here in a vague, hand wavy conspiracy way where the Lachitts have secret backers who are rich and powerful enough to pull strings in the right places.  I have to say that I was a bit disappointed by this, mainly because I am not a fan of conspiracy theories generally but also because when you dig down into it in the book (e.g. a scene where Club Loser realises that they are trapped in a shopping centre) it’s not believable enough.  I do realise that this sounds a bit strange given these are books about giant spiders and brain worms and vampire birds but I can believe I that if there’s a credibility to the ‘normal’ life bits.

There are some great scenes in the book, my favourite being where Club Loser try out different outfits for the school dance because Killick nails the sheer joy of trying on clothes and strutting your stuff.  Gus has some of the best moments in the book (including in the clothes scene) and for me remains the MVP.  I’m also a big fan of Mr Canton with his dreadful attempts to use slang and having been a bit worried that Killick was setting him up to be a secret baddy, I was pleased at a sub plot he has with Colette’s mum, which promises great things for the final book.

The Latchitts’s desire to get Colette to go with them remains the core of the book.  Killick just about keeps this believable for me – focusing on how in their own, twisted heads they need it to be her choice to be with them, even if they have to force her to make that choice.  There’s also a major development there that promises interesting events in book 4.

Notwithstanding my criticisms, I do think that this is well done horror comedy that readers aged 9+ are going to enjoy.  Killick has a sharp way with dialogue, there is a believable friendship bond between the 5 children and the horror is frightening and also quite gory.  I am definitely keen to see how Killick will end the series and what will happen to Club Loser next.   

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