Dark Satanic Mill grabs hold of its reader and transports them to a fearful time-gone-by. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Luddite riots and the Napoleonic war, Miles Craven’s novel is more than just a lesson in history, it’s a captivating and suspenseful drama that leaves the reader turning page after page.
It’s 1813 and a young orphan, Robbie Enright, is taken to a remote cotton-spinning mill to begin his new life working as an apprentice under the watchful eye of the Onlooker, Mr Titus Bredlow. As we follow Robbie into his new surroundings, we learn that he is not just the cheeky, quick-witted and troublesome teenager that he presents himself as. He is in fact a deep-thinking, somewhat lonely boy who finds himself, ironically, isolated in this new, over-populated environment. He soon becomes an incredibly fascinating main character as we get to know his inner thoughts – thoughts in which he finds solace, grateful for the privacy of his own mind. Robbie’s dialogue is clear and realistic, and he is revealed to be an intelligent boy, despite not being able to read or write. It is this potential that made me grow ever more attached to him, willing him to do well and make the right choices.
The story moves at a good pace, and takes a turn when Robbie befriends the ‘roguish’ Ned Wainwright, a notorious Luddite and a wanted man. Robbie is asked by both Wainwright and Bredlow, on separate occasions, to spy on the other. Agreeing to both, Robbie secretly sides with Wainwright, and feeds false information on an attack back to the fearsome Bredlow – at extremely high risk.
It is at this moment that multiple threads of storyline take off in different directions, almost like the threads of cotton weaved at the mill. Robbie is determined to discover the truth, which will expose why several female hands have recently disappeared, and becomes all the more resolute when he falls in love with the pretty Mary Pepper.
The story reaches a thrilling and unexpectedly horrifying climax, as Robbie makes some terrifying discoveries about the mill. Relentless to the authority who hope to halt him, Robbie endeavours to reveal the mill’s darkest secret for all to see. I found myself completely immersed in the final suspenseful scenes, where Craven’s daring and exhilarating style kept me gripped until the very last page.
By April Heade
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