Annotation: After her family purchases and moves into an old inn called the Rowan Tree, fourteen-year-old Maya Munro is stalked by a strange fox that leads her into the woods where she discovers the bodies of three deceased residents of the nearby village. When Maya returns to the woods with the police, the bodies are gone, and Maya realizes that what she glimpsed may have been a warning of what’s to come.
Personal thoughts: This was one of those novels that, for personal reasons, really gave me some serious chills. The whole idea of the woods and the dead bodies was exceptionally creepy to me, having grown up next to a very large forest, and I had a sense of dread throughout the novel. I have to commend Tim Bowler on his ability to create something suspenseful and spooky that let most of the scares be up to the imagination. The entire novel was very well-written, and I enjoyed the setting as well. The ending was a little strange for me, but when it’s all said and done I thought it was a good book. I will definitely look for more of Tim Bowler’s works in the future.
Plot summary: Fourteen-year-old Maya Munro and her brother Tom have just moved with their parents to the Rowan Tree, an old inn and restaurant in a small English village. Determined to turn the inn into a thriving business, Maya’s parents quickly work to establish themselves while Maya and Tom get to know the area. Several days after their arrival, however, Maya begins to notice a strange presence in and around the Rowan Tree. A pair of glowing yellow eyes belonging to a mysterious fox appear wherever she goes, and, one night, lead her into the woods where she discovers the lifeless bodies of three village residents. Maya alerts the police and quickly leads them back to the clearing where she found the bodies, only to find that they have disappeared. To make matters worse, two of the people she saw lying dead in the woods are still very much alive, and now the close-knit village believes that Maya is delusional and seeking attention. Although Maya is relieved that no one has died, she begins to worry if her vision may have been a warning of what’s to come. Strange scratching sounds emanate from the walls of her room in the Rowan Tree, foxes keep turning up mutilated in the village, and headless effigies are being carved in the trunks of trees in the woods. Who or what is responsible for what’s going on, and is there anything Maya can do before someone is actually murdered?
Review: British author Tim Bowler, winner of the Carnegie Medal for his book River Boy, presents a spooky, atmospheric story in his latest novel, Buried Thunder. The mystery begins from the very first sentence, setting the stage for what is a vigorously paced and chilling tale that will appeal to a variety of readers. Since the novel is somewhat short and very succinct in its plot, reluctant readers or those who don’t want to get into something too lengthy will find a lot to enjoy in Buried Thunder. The story will also appeal to male readers who aren’t interested in something with a lot of romance (there is a very brief, somewhat unimportant flirtation in the novel that lasts less than a page). The book will also appeal to those who are interested in mysteries and hauntings, as well as premonitions. That being said, however, Buried Thunder is far from a perfect read. While the first 90% of the novel is really well written and suspenseful, the ending does seem to wrap up at warp speed, leaving a little bit to be desired in explaining what exactly was going on in the book. This may have been the author’s intention, wanting to leave some of it up to the imagination, but for readers who want everything thoroughly explained, it’s far from ideal. Despite this shortcoming, Buried Thunder is a quiet but spooky read with some genuinely creepy moments. Tim Bowler’s skill as a young adult author is evident throughout, and readers will likely seek out some of his other works after reading this book.
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: The Poisoned House by Michael Ford, Tighter by Adele Griffin, The Nightmarys by Dan Poblocki, The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab.
Themes: Murder, premonitions, hauntings, foxes, England.
Awards/Reviews: Written by award-winning author.
Series Information: N/A
Discussion questions:- What do you think was going on with Maya and the fox? How would you explain her premonitions?
- Do you think Zep is a protagonist or antagonist? Why? What about Bonny or Mo?
- Do you think Maya’s family believed her?
- Were you surprised by the ending of the novel? Why or why not?