Review by Meesha Whittam: The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon

The Ghost Train cover

I whole-heartedly recommend Jack Roney’s book to anyone remotely interested in stories based around friendship, history, science fiction, Australiana or adventure.

This novel is a fascinating story based on historical events and is gripping from beginning to end. The author has spectacularly merged multiple events and time periods to form a story that, at its core, provides a beautiful depiction of mateship.

Fact and fiction merge

The Ghost Train and The Scarlet Moon is a captivating novel based around the friendship between three boys in 1982 and the connections they and their small Queensland town have to the real-life events of the 1947 Camp Mountain train crash. The story is stunningly written, with exquisite word choices and a style of storytelling that truly draws the reader in. Over the course of the story the boys experience a number of enthralling events that ultimately bring them closer than they could have ever imagined.

I absolutely loved this book. It felt nostalgic and futuristic at the same time, which brought a unique feel to the story. The young boys as characters were written particularly well. Their characteristics were clearly those of 12-year-old boys, and the setting was very accurate, giving the novel an incredibly authentic feel.

I also enjoyed how the story kept me guessing, and I could not put it down! Up until the very last page I did not know how it was going to end, which I think is an important quality for a book to have. Not only was the ending unpredictable, it was also cathartic.

A favourite ending

The ending would have to be my favourite part, as amazing as the rest of the book was. All of the issues were solved by the ending and it served as a therapeutic moment to grieve for both the characters and the story. I was so upset that it was over but elated with how it ended.

I thoroughly appreciated how the more emotional scenes were written. It is very rare for me to read a book that makes me cry; this is the third book I’ve ever read to evoke that response. That alone conveys how many areas this story covers. It not only includes, but does exceptionally well in exploring, adventure, loss, emotion, love, and friendship.

Boys will be boys

It also made me laugh; properly laugh, at the antics of the young boys. The early events in the story detailing the boys’ actions reminded me of how my friends and I used to be together, before, as in the story, the events of adulthood pulled us apart. Perhaps because of this, and how I was able to relate to the story despite it having science fiction and historical aspects, I finished this book very quickly; before I went back to read it for a second time.

Unfortunately for my critical side, it is very difficult to fault this book. I loved the story, the characters, the language, the setting, and the themes. If there was one thing I would have liked to be expanded on it would have to be the romance aspect, and possibly the inclusion of additional female characters. This could aid in the book appealing to an even wider audience as well as creating more relatability for female readers. However, without this it remains an amazing book.

I whole-heartedly recommend Jack Roney’s book to anyone remotely interested in stories based around friendship, history, science fiction, Australiana or adventure.

You can buy The Ghost Train and the Scarlet Moon via the Hawkeye store, or all good bookstores and libraries.

Want to know more about Jack Roney? Visit his Hawkeye author page here or his website here.

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