Tagline: “It’s gonna be a L-O-N-G night!”
Synopsis: Sue and her brother Eddie are having a blast in London while their parents attend meetings. (What sorts of meetings? Not important.) Mom and Dad set them up with a tour group, and so the siblings eat bangers and mash, window shop in Harrods, and visit landmarks like Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey. You know, London things. What Sue and Eddie are most excited for is the final stop on their tour: Terror Tower. (For more on my confusion regarding Terror Tower vs. the Tower of London, see the post immediately before this.) The kids get to Terror Tower and take a walking tour through some torture chambers, groaning at their tour guide’s murder-related jokes and getting increasingly creeped out by the caped man lurking around every corner. Somewhere down the line, Eddie and Sue hear the tragic tale of Edward and Susannah of York, a pair of children who were (probably) smothered to death within the confines of Terror Tower. (Yup. Eddie and Sue hear about Edward and Susannah.Let that one sink in.) Shortly thereafter, they get separated from the group and hotly pursued around and underneath (there’s a sewer chase!) the Tower by the man in the cape who keeps clicking three white stones together. (The stones are for future-jumping and spells and stuff. Spoiler alert.) They manage to escape, but they’ve missed the tour bus and have to find a way back to their parents’ hotel. The children soon realize they can’t remember anything: what their parents look like, why their parents took them to London, or even their own last name. And quite suddenly (20-30 pages later), you find out why as Sue and Eddie are transported back hundreds of years and taken from the old city streets by the Lord High Executioner (caped man!), put in a cell, and visited in said cell by a wizard named Morgred. Hundreds of years ago, when the kids who we now know to be Edward and Susannah of York were on the verge of getting smothered, Morgred put a spell on them, attempting to get them far from the Tower as possible. In the distant future with a new set of memories seemed far enough. It wasn’t, they’re back in the past due to some stone-clicking and executioner-related trickery, and smothering seems inevitable. Morgred gives Sue and Eddie back their memories and claims he cannot help them, Eddie steals the stones from Morgred’s pocket (I’m admittedly quite fuzzy on who has the stones when throughout this entire book), and Eddie transports Sue and himself back to the 20th century, old-school monarchy memories intact. And Morgred’s there too, and they’re a family now, because why not?
Creepiness factor: I was really distracted by my own theorizing for a lot of this book, absolutely convinced the kids were ghosts and didn’t realize it. But Stine, sly dog that he was, totally fooled me and mixed it up with some wizardry, throwing in hundreds of rats, a number of torture devices, and a legitimately frightening antagonist in the Lord High Executioner. So let’s crank the creepiness factor up to a solid B+!
Signature Stine moment: There’s a battery of bad similes throughout, and this was the first awesomely bad one I found, only 37 pages in.
“We stared through the dim light at each other. Frozen like the dummies in the cells.”
I’m not giving you context. It’s for the best.
Accuracy of title: There are certainly bits and pieces of an evening spent in Terror Tower, and it’s really best to keep that time travel idea under wraps, so it was better to be vague. Nice title. Nice book.
Moral of the story: Is there one? Shoot. Well. How about this? Don’t be a prince or princess, because your parents are probably going to die and your evil uncle is probably going to try to kill you.
Overall rating: 7.5/10. Stine is just killing it these days, by which I mean the late 1994 and early 1995 Goosebumps books were pretty good.