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Book Review: The Whistlers in the Dark by Victoria Williamson

A heartwarming tale of friendship and family set in Roman-era Scotland

By Marie SinadjanPublished 9 months ago 3 min read

My name’s Jinny. I’m twelve autumns old, and this is the story of how I woke the sleeping stones and brought fire and destruction down on us all…

Scotland, 158 AD, is a divided country.

On one side of the Antonine Wall, thirteen-year-old Felix is trying to become a good Roman soldier like his father. On the other, twelve-year old Jinny is vowing revenge on the ‘metal men’ who have invaded her Damnonii tribe’s homeland. At the Damnonii’s sacred circle of standing stones, her planned attack on Felix goes badly wrong, awakening a legend that threatens to bring fire and destruction down on them all.

Can Jinny and Felix overcome their differences and soothe the stones back to sleep before it’s too late? Set in Kirkintilloch at the end of the Roman occupation, The Whistlers in the Dark is an uplifting story of friendship across a divide, as well as a spooky tale of a circle of standing stones going walking at Halloween.

GENRE: Middle Grade Historical Fantasy


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Victoria Williamson is an award-winning author who grew up in Scotland surrounded by hills, books, and an historical farm estate which inspired many of her early adventure stories and spooky tales. After studying Physics at the University of Glasgow, she set out on her own real-life adventures, which included teaching maths and science in Cameroon, training teachers in Malawi, teaching English in China and working with children with additional support needs in the UK. Victoria currently works part time writing KS2 books for the education company Twinkl and spends the rest of her time writing novels, and visiting schools, libraries and literary festivals to give author talks and run creative writing workshops.

Victoria’s previous novels include The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, The Boy with the Butterfly Mind, Hag Storm, and War of the Wind. She has won the Bolton Children’s Fiction Award 2020/2021, The YA-aldi Glasgow Secondary School Libraries Book Award 2023, and has been shortlisted for the Week Junior Book Awards 2023, The Leeds Book Awards 2023, the Red Book Award 2023, the James Reckitt Hull Book Awards 2021, The Trinity School Book Awards 2021, and longlisted for the ABA South Coast Book Awards 2023, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020, and the Branford Boase Award 2019.

Her novel The Pawnshop of Stolen Dreams is a middle grade fantasy inspired by classic folklore. Twenty percent of the author royalties for this book are donated to CharChar Literacy, an organisation working to improve children’s literacy levels in Malawi.

You can find out more about Victoria’s books, school visits and free resources for schools on her website:


Victoria Williamson again? Yes, Victoria Williamson again. She might just be my author discovery of the year thanks to Norah's Ark, so expect to see more reviews of her books in the coming months!

Anyway, to no one's surprise I'm back in middle grade fantasy land, this time with a heartwarming tale of friendship and family set in Roman-era Scotland. While first person POV isn't everyone's cup of tea, I especially loved it in this book and thought it worked really well. You can bet I tried to "read" Jinny's chapters with a Scottish voice, though I'm pretty sure I would've sounded nothing like a Scot if I did that out loud 😂

I think one of Victoria's real strengths, aside from her genre versatility, is being able to create wonderful young characters who deal with societal issues without being reduced to childish stereotypes and without removing the bits that make them young people. (I've read far more annoying and immature YA protagonists, in all honesty.) I loved Jinny and Bram's sibling relationship, although I admit I was a little confused by the thing at the beginning. Not that it bothered me too much though, haha. But I especially loved Felix, the poor boy. Caught between two worlds and wanting so desperately to belong.

I loved the use of folklore in the story, too. It reminded me of the movie Wolfwalkers actually (though that one's set in Ireland). The cover is also really gorgeous. This book is a perfect addition to the Victoria Williamson corner of my bookshelf.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️️⭐️️


About the Creator

Marie Sinadjan

Filipino spec fic author and book reviewer based in the UK. •

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    Marie SinadjanWritten by Marie Sinadjan

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