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Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge
Kathryn Reiss
Harcourt, 436 pages

Art: Scott M. Fischer
Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge
Kathryn Reiss
Kathryn Ress received a B.A. in English and German from Duke University in 1980 and a M.F.A. in English and Creative Writing from University of Michigan in 1988. As a Fulbright-Hayes Scholar, she attended Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universitšt, Bonn Germany in 1981. She has been teaching at Mills College since 1989.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Paperquake
SF Site Review: Paint by Magic

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Zibby has been working hard to save money for a brand new pair of roller blades. Blades she plans on getting for her birthday when her mother and aunt finish perusing the tables of the local dollhouse show. Just before the show ends, Zibby finds herself compelled to buy an antique dollhouse that costs exactly -- to the penny -- what she has in her pocket. Her mother is thrilled, but when Zibby comes out of the trance, anger doesn't quite describe her feelings. The dollhouse does nothing to endear itself to her. It is a priceless heirloom with a set of dolls included to go with the furnishings. You are correct if you've guessed that the deal was not nearly as good as it sounds. The dollhouse moves itself of its own accord, voices can be heard echoing from it, the palms of Zibby's hands burn as if someone's striking them. In one scene when Zibby hauls it out and burns it to ashes, then goes back upstairs. She finds it back in its place, perfectly untouched. When she accidentally catches the mamma doll's dress on fire in an earlier scene, the next day her mother, too, is burned.

Zibby, with the help of Penny and Jude, two girls who've just moved in down the road and Laura-Jane, soon to become her step-sister, work to track down the source of the haunting, and discover the story about a cruel governess named Miss Honeywell, and her charge, Primrose.

The highlight of this story is definitely the haunted dollhouse. The governess doll creeps around, sometimes standing on the roof of the house, even ending up on Zibby's pillow. The indestructibility of the house and the eerie things that happen truly are scary. What is even more frightening is how, when the girls try and see if they can use the dollhouse to create positive things, how each of those things developed. The dollhouse has some truly scary powers. And as long as Honeywell skulks its rooms, it can be certain that no good will come of it.

At the beginning of Sweet Miss Honeywell's Revenge, Zibby is slightly bratty, but as the story develops, she grows. She learns a lot about herself, and how to live with the life she has. I really liked how Kathryn Reiss used this unusual situation, which doesn't seem like it should impact our heroine in any way besides giving her a phobia of small porcelain dolls, and uses it to create the changes through interaction with the other girls and forcing her to revaluate what matters to her.

Primrose's story is staggered throughout the book, we see it first hand. Primrose is a young girl who fights the cruelness of her governess with small rebellions that she almost always has to pay for, usually by being locked in a closet. Honeywell is one scary creature, bitter and twisted. Even her love for Primrose's math tutor doesn't give any warmth to her barren soul for the reader to empathize with.

A wondrously spooky ghost story that will definitely please girls of all ages.

Copyright © 2004 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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