Review Detail

3.8 2
Young Adult Fiction 2529
Atmospheric horror novel
Overall rating
Writing Style
For fans of folklore, monsters, and haunted houses, debut author Lindsey Barraclough has written a book just for you. Long Lankin, set in rural post-war England, details an encounter with an ancient beast who’s been stealing children from Guerdon Hall for centuries. Though the story itself drags in places—particularly the middle—the exploration of folklore and thrilling climax made up a lot of ground.

Though I checked this book out from the YA section of my library, I personally consider this to be middle grade. Both the age of the characters and Barraclough’s style of writing factor into my opinion, and overall, I would be much more likely to hand this to a reader between the ages of 8-13 than one in high school. Others’ opinions may differ, but that is mine. And really, the fact that Long Lankin is middle grade didn’t work for or against it, though usually I don’t read seek out MG. It’s really just an observation.

The book has three narrating characters, and follows a cast of five characters total. There are Cora and Mimi, two girls who are sent to the country from London, their Great Aunt Edith, and the village boys Roger and Pete. Cora, Edith, and Roger switch first-person narration between them. Overall, Lindsey Barraclough used her characters to observe and interact—I never got a good glimpse inside anyone’s head or felt that I truly knew them. This is in part due to the fact that most horror novels operate like this, and also because (in my opinion), Long Lankin is geared a bit more toward younger readers.

The monster in question was handled imperfectly throughout the text, but I think it came off well in the end. Whether Cain Lankin was ever human is left unknown to the reader, but in his current, slimy crocodillian incarnation, he’s about as scary as it gets. I thought the incorporation of Cain—the Biblical figure who was marked by God and wandered the earth in exile, and was known by his mark—was well done. Actually, throughout the book there was a definite religious undertone, having to do with the afterlife, ghosts, and cemeteries. In some ways, Long Lankin is a bit reminiscent of White Crow.

For me, however, Long Lankin was not the most captivating book. It’s very long by anyone’s standard—almost 500 pages. And considering the content Barraclough covered here, I think it was probably too much. Around 300 pages into this, I started to get bored, since the plot mostly consists of Cora and Roger sneaking around, reading letters and books they shouldn’t. After that, the last 20% consisted of a lot of info-dumping, both from Aunt Edith and other sources. The final confrontation between the characters and Cain Lankin was very satisfying, though, and managed to bump up the rating after I lowered it a bit in the middle sections.

Long Lankin, in spite of its faults, was a very good horror novel for younger YA readers or MG readers. Lindsey Barraclough’s slow-moving, ponderous prose did well to highlight the dark atmosphere of her story, though it might have been too slow in places. I have few (if any) major complains, however, and I think Long Lankin is a book worth reading.
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