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In the Serpent's Coils: Hallowmere Book 1    by Tiffany Trent order for
In the Serpent's Coils
by Tiffany Trent
Order:  USA  Can
Mirrorstone, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

In the Serpent's Coils, the first book in Tiffany Trent's Hallowmere series, is one of the scariest historical fantasies I have ever read. It is not so scary as to give nightmares or make you not want to turn off the lights at night, but Trent has incorporated a chilling atmosphere that pervades the entire novel.

Corrine Jameson's father disappeared during the Civil War and her mother died shortly after, leaving Corrine as a ward of her uncle William. William sets up strict rules for Corrine not to poke around in his desk, but being naturally curious, Corrine cannot help herself. In his things, Corrine finds a picture of a mysterious lady and a book with two serpents on the cover. At the time, she is unsure what these things mean, but she is soon to find out. After Corrine steals a stone from her uncle to appease the voices under a hawthorn bush that promise her health and happiness, William's study is broken into and more of what he is hiding comes to light. In a trunk that William was keeping from her and that actually belonged to her mother, Corrine finds a portrait of another mysterious lady and a translated letter in a hand that will become very familiar to her.

Dismayed at what has happened, William sends Corrine off to a boarding school in the South, run by the lady whose picture he has on his desk. When Corrine arrives at Falston Manor, she starts having dreams about a student who disappeared. Soon, Corrine begins to realize that secrets abound at the rigid school, but her spirits are lightened when she meets Rory, a young man who works at the school and knows about the Fey, who she learns were behind the voices under the bush. However, tension builds at Falston among students and faculty, and Corrine becomes unsure who she can trust, which side is good, and which is evil. Everywhere she turns, Corrine seems to find she is stuck within the serpent's coils.

Corrine is a very likeable heroine, who attempts to tell others what is happening. But no one will admit to believing her something that many young readers can relate to at one time or another. The reader, who knows Corrine is telling the truth, gets the feeling that something truly bad is going to happen if no one listens to her. Also, while following Corrine, the reader gets to see things with a slightly different perspective, perceives that Corrine might not be on the correct track in her assumptions, and that if she continues as she is going, something truly bad might happen because of that too - which adds to the story's escalating terror.

For her first novel, Trent has done a stellar job of crafting an intriguing, dark tale that combines history, fantasy, mystery, and the typical young adult fare of trying to fit in at school. Parts of In the Serpent's Coils are truly haunting, sending shivers down the spine as Corrine learns more of the secrets that infest Falston. These elements make for a compelling read.

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