Book Review, Middle Grade Fiction, Uncategorized

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Chance Hotel by Nicki Thornton

– Short Review –

The Last Chance Hotel is a delightful page turner, I challenge anyone who reads it not to fall under Thornton’s spell. The book reads as a simple who done it novel but the beauty of this book is the shear brilliance of its plot and the characters that are held within its pages. A remarkable book with so much to offer young readers. The book is aimed at the middle grade reader and coming from the publishing house of Chicken House Books you know it is in good company and is a book that will be an engaging read, like so many others from this fabulous publisher. I particularly enjoyed the hidden depth waiting for the reader which I hope many of you will soon discover…but Thornton hides her reveal masterfully and when it hits, oh my, things will never be the same again!

Other books you may enjoy would include The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events by Daniel Handler.

– Long Review –

Coming from the powerhouse of children’s publishing that is Chicken House Books comes another fabulously crafted book in the shape of ‘The Last Chance Hotel‘. Obviously Barry Cunningham who is the driving force behind this publisher knows a thing or two about magical books – having been the person who discovered that little know author J.K. Rowling and the boy wizard that she spawned. I can’t help but feel that Barry has a penchant for the magical – and with The Last Chance Hotel and Nicki Thornton he has discovered yet again a writer who has something of the magical about her!

The Last Chance Hotel follows the life of Seth who is a downtrodden kitchen boy at a remote hotel called (you guessed it) The Last Chance Hotel. His only friend in this dastardly place is his cat Nightshade, who becomes his source of comfort and friendship when faced with his days of washing up, cleaning, being spoken down to and pretty much being treated as a slave – but Seth is an aspiring chef, can his hidden passion lead him out of this life of imprisonment? One night the hotel welcomes a strange gathering of magicians for a meal that no one will ever forget…especially Seth’s grand dessert as it poisons one of the guests and all fingers, doubts and suspicions fall squarely on him. Seth is the main suspect in the most heinous of crimes…but the thing is, he’s innocent. We follow Seth as he fights to clear his name, adventure, scares and double crosses await as we journey with him on a mission to clear his name and solve the mystery that is locked enchantingly within The Last Chance Hotel!

With The Last Chance Hotel Thornton has created a book that is so engrossing that at times I had to literally stop myself reading it, it’s a book that has that readability factor – it is a perfectly balanced who done it story that wraps itself around you and wont let go, like a hungry python. I can say it is a little bit like a game of Cluedo for middle grade readers with enough twists, turns and dead ends to keep you gripped and entertained. The mystery of the book is so well hidden that I had no idea who was to blame for the murder, with Thornton leading me on a merry dance with many wrong assumptions along the way…don’t worry this review is spoiler free, as the joy of this book is discovering the murderer and clues along the way.

‘Getting an Elysee library card is a tremendous honour. A ticket to the secret Elysee library of magical texts? How can you not be excited? There is nothing so brilliant and unexpected as the wonders you’ll find in a book.’

The characters that are held within the pages of The Last Chance Hotel are also one of the main reasons this book is such a success. Thornton has created a delectable cast of characters (magical folk and not so magical folk) who are the life blood of the book and had me reminiscing about all the fabulous characters that make up the Harry Potter series – each character serves a part in this book, there is no space for hangers on and Thornton does a remarkable job at bringing each of these characters into the unravelling, twisting, turning plot – causing us the reader to second guess their motives – a masterstroke of writing which is executed with a masters touch by Thornton, writing like a children’s Agatha Christie but take away The Orient Express and replace it with The Last Chance Hotel – then you’ve got yourself a winning formula!

Thornton has created a wonderful book here – the winner of the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2016 has produced a book that is both engaging, hugely enjoyable and could be the start of a magical series is something to savour. Thornton’s writing is both engaging and a delight to read, her prose is light but carries an air of mystery and enchantment that makes this book very hard to put down, showcasing Thornton’s undeniable talent as a middle grade writer and in my opinion a worthy winner of the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition.

We can see a very special writer in the making here and we are chomping at the bit to see what she comes up with next, whether this be a sequel or something very different – whatever it is we will be first in line to purchase a copy!

The Last Chance Hotel is an enchanting tale of mystery and discovery, ensnaring its readers with a vice like grip. It is a magical story that leaves the reader astonished and amazed in equal measure!

The Last Chance Hotel is published by Chicken House Books and is available here.


Nicki Thornton


Nicki Thornton has run an independent bookshop with her husband for more than ten years and loves the wonderful alchemy that comes from bringing together authors and readers. Her favourite part of the job is hearing from children about the books they love, including from her own two boys, and this inspired her to start to write. Her dream of seeing her own name on the shelves has come closer with her magical murder mystery The Last Chance Hotel winning the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition 2016.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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