With the launch of Class, the BBC has also commissioned a set of books based on the series. AK Benedict’s The Stone House shows all the hallmarks of this – the setting is moved out of the school for simplicity, most of the central characters are a bit one-dimensional and there is nothing she can do to play with the format. At the time of writing she can’t have known how the show would be realised on release, so in most respects (this is a brand new series) she plays safe and focusses on a haunted house mystery.
Criticisms aside, the haunted house manages to be creepy and interesting, and like the show itself we get some horrific effects-laden sequences when all the students visit. Once the action gets past using all of the main characters to focus on Tanya and Miss Quill it becomes better paced and far more entertaining. The story makes some more sense as the intricacies of the setup are revealed, and while some of it seems like convenient tidying away of various threads, some of it gives hints of a better story hidden underneath this solid if safe venture into the YA world of Coal Hill Academy.
Where AK Benedict’s strengths as a writer (she normally writes spooky crime fantasies or Torchwood audios for Big Finish) come to the fore is in the resolution. Yes, there’s a tie-back to Coal Hill School (slightly), but there is an intelligently written backstory and some good new characters that tangentially give us far more insight into Miss Quill. Hopefully we will get more from AK Benedict and it will be better informed by the episodes so far, in which case she has shown plenty of potential.
It’s not a perfect book by any means, nor is it essential reading for fans of Class. What it is, is a decent enough piece of entertainment and an introduction to a writer who many may not previously have encountered.
CLASS: THE STONE HOUSE / AUTHOR: A K BENEDICT / PUBLISHER: BBC BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW