Review - The Whisperling by Hayley Hoskins

Review - The Whisperling by Hayley Hoskins

When you're dead, you're dead.

When you're gone, you're gone.
Unless, of course, you're not.
And that's where I come in.

The year is 1897, and Peggy Devona can speak with ghosts.

She hides her gift from those afraid of a girl with such powers, terrified of the secrets the dead could reveal through her. But when her best friend is accused of murdering her rich mistress, Peggy knows only she - a whisperling - can save her.

Peggy escapes to her uncle's psychic emporium in the city, seeking out new ghosts to help her solve Sally's case.

Yet time is running out, and each step towards uncovering the truth also brings Sally one step closer to the gallows. . .



The Whisperling is a sublime ghost story, with a terrifying villain, an endearing heroine, some incredibly powerful emotional punches, a strong sense of social justice and an almost overwhelming sense of peril. I absolutely loved it.

There's a strong sense of unease about the whole thing, as there should be with a good ghost story. Peggy can talk to ghosts, sure, but she doesn't really understand it or her powers beyond the bare minimum. That knowledge has been passed down through her family, but it's in a book her pa won't let her read until she's older. So we get to see this rather vague and unspecified ability, and when it shifts and changes that makes sense because there's so much we don't know about it. We're effectively learning as we go through it just as Peggy is. This works so much better than just setting out all of the supernatural rules early in the book, and lends the whole piece a mystery and unease. We do know, however, that whisperlings, people who can see and talk to the dead, are feared and hated, with frequent comparisons made to the witches. Some of these suggest that the witches too were real and maybe things played out slightly differently to how they did in our own reality.

Peggy herself is a lovely character. Through her determination and strength of character, I grew really attached to her. She stood up for what she believed in no matter how scared or uncertain she was. I really felt for her with everything that happened to her. 

The Reverend Tait is one of the best villains I've come across in a while. He is absolutely awful! Vile, repugnant, opiniated, controlling. He's the kind of villain you absolutely love to hate!

The supporting cast were also excellent. I particularly loved Oti and Cecily, their way of speaking, their attitude to Victorian life and particularly their costumes. They both really came to life on the page. Sally was a really lovely character who took us on an extraordinarily emotional journey that near broke my heart. 

As well as the creepy mysterious elements, The Whisperling really packs an emotional punch. Early in the book, a letter from a dead mother to her son had me in tears. It was so simple, and so beautiful. There are further deaths that really actually hurt. And twists and revelations by the end that had me weeping. This is a book that knows how to play with your emotions, keep you guessing and then really deliver! There's a real sense of peril too, that builds and builds right through to the incredible, dramatic climax. 

Tears and fears from The Whisperling, in the best possible way. A beautiful and powerful book!


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The Whisperling by Hayley Hoskins is out on 1st September 2022, published by Penguin.

I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

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