Reader Reviewed The Serpent House by Bea Davenport

The Serpent House

Written by Bea Davenport

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

June 2014 Debut of the Month A chilling, time-slip story with a strong sense of the past and full of magic and mystery. Summoned out of her life of poverty after her mother’s death, Annie finds she has the extraordinary ability to slip back into the past whenever she touches one of the images of a serpent which fill the grand house in which she is working. Her mistress orders her to follow the serpents back in time to a leper hospital to steal a cure for all the diseases in the world from a sinister doctor who works there. Annie needs great courage to fulfil the mission and has no assurance that the sinister doctor’s cures will work.

Reader Reviews

Kids love to read and so in addition to our Lovereading expert review, some of our Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

  • Sathana Selvanathan, Year 4, Baring School - 'I have recommended this book to my friends and rate it 100 out of 100 – the best book ever!' Read full review >
  • Adiella Norridge, age 10 - 'the idea of this book was really interesting and involved lots of elements of things I really love in a novel: an interesting main character, a historical setting, elements of magic and mystery.' Read full review >
  • Holly Carver, age 11 - 'The Serpent House is about a girl called Annie who travels back in time to collect a book of medicine.  The ending has an unexpected twist.' Read full review >
  • Alina Wraith, age 9 - 'I liked The Serpent House. It had the classic story lines of time travelling but it was very original in the sense of place and time. It was a brilliant book.' Read full review >
  • Sam Harper, age 10 - 'A really exciting and different time travel adventure which had me hooked from the first page to the last.  An absolutely fantastic read!' Read full review >
  • Lily Benner, age 9 - 'A book of mystery and excitement. So descriptive that I felt I was there.' Read full review >
  • Tomasz, age 9 - 'What a fantastic story!  I just couldn't put this book down. 280 pages filled of snakes, fire, ghosts, magic and explosions. I really felt like I was in the story as the descriptions were so real.' Read full review >
  • Benjy Randall, age 10 - 'A really exciting book for both boys and girls, full of magic and adventure.' Read full review >
  • Hannah Minton, age 8 - 'I couldn't put this book down.' Read full review >
  • Brodie Greenslade, age 8 - 'The Serpent House is a creepy tale in which a servant girl called Annie must cope with time travel and strange characters as she tries to help save the people of Hexer Hall from a mystery illness.' Read full review >
  • Joseph Kinder, age 10 - 'This is a tense book full of suspense, with a really clever use of time.  I loved it; it was brilliant and I would recommend it to ages ten and upwards.' Read full review >
  • Eloise Mae Clarkson, age 11 - 'I really enjoyed this book. I thought the characters were unique, Annie was kind, brave and strong and I liked her.'  Read full review >


The Serpent House by Bea Davenport

As I got into the Hall grounds, the sick, dizzy feeling came over me again, as if I was
about to fall over. Was that a whispering in my ears? Was someone saying my name?

Twelve-year-old Annie is invited to Hexer Hall to work as a servant for the mysterious Lady Hexer. Carvings of snakes are everywhere and when Annie touches one, she travels back in time to when the Hall was a leper hospital, run by a sinister doctor with a collection of terrifying serpents. Annie never wants to return, but Lady Hexer demands she finds a way to steal the doctor’s book of magical cures. She promises it will rid the world of disease, including tuberculosis, which killed Annie’s mother.

Summoning all her courage, Annie travels back in time again...

Annie, the central character, suffers from alopecia, a condition the author also had. At primary school Davenport starting to notice her hair falling out, and, by aged 8 she had
significant hair loss and alopecia was diagnosed. Davenport suffered with the condition well in to her 30s, it was only after the birth of her first son that her hair started to return. Davenport wanted to write about a character suffering from alopecia, and when she discovered in her research that hair loss was a symptom of leprosy it all seemed to fall in to place. She explains “A long time ago, writers realised that there was no reason why the hero of a story shouldn’t look or act different to the norm, but I’ve never found another book where the main character has lost her hair.”


Both the Victorian present of Annie's diary and the medieval past are strongly evoked. Amanda Craig

...a brilliant book! Jackie Kay MBE, poet and novelist

About the Author

Bea Davenport

The Serpent House was written during Bea Davenport’s Creative Writing PhD at Newcastle University. Her tutors were Jackie Kay, the award-winning poet and writer, and Professor Kim Reynolds, an internationally-renowned expert in children’s literature.
In its early, unpublished form, The Serpent House was shortlisted for the 2010 Times/Chicken House award. It was inspired by the village where Bea lives, which is named after a medieval leper hospital, and the stories of Bea’s three great aunts who all worked in service in the early twentieth century.
Bea has also written a crime novel for adults, In Too Deep, and teaches creative writing classes.

She lives near Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland with her partner and children.

A Q&A with the author on her novel The Serpent House

Describe your book in one sentence?

It has to be the main character, Annie, who has gone through such a lot but who really toughens up over the course of her adventures. I’m also very fond of her cross little medieval friend Meg.

It’s from near the end: ‘Maybe it was just time for things to grow again’. It will make sense when you read the book!

As an author whom would you like to be compared to?

Imaginative, anxious, little.

Shakespeare or Dickens?
Both, of course! But if I have to choose, George Eliot.

Favourite author?
I can never answer this as I don’t have a single favourite. I have a huge long list and it changes from week to week. At the moment Neil Gaiman is very near the top of the list, because I have just finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Favourite character from a book?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Pippi Longstocking. I like a free spirit!

Prefer books or the film adaptations?
Always, always books! It’s not that there aren’t some fantastic film adaptations, as there are, but if I was on a desert island I’d rather it had a library than a cinema.

If you weren’t an author, you would be…
I was a journalist for many years and that was a fun job. And I’ve always liked the idea of playing a baddie character in a TV soap.

Favourite place/setting to read a book?
On holiday, anywhere in the sun. That way I don’t get the niggling feeling I should be working instead of reading.

What inspired you to write your book?
It came from two things, mainly. One was that in the village where I live there used to be a medieval leper hospital, although not much is known about it. I also wanted to write something based on the stories of my three great-aunts, all of whom worked in service in large houses in Newcastle and Cumbria at the turn of the twentieth century. They had such hard lives. So I wove together the late Victorian and early medieval eras, using time travel. Just don’t ask me where all the snakes came from – I’m terrified of them!

If you had a dinner party what three authors or characters from literature would you invite?
First would be Edith Nesbit, author of the first ever historical time fantasy for children (The Story of the Amulet). I’d love to ask her about the genre she started and the way it’s so popular today. I’d invite Dorothy Parker to make everyone laugh. Finally I’d invite Mary Poppins, so that she could magic us up a feast and clear it up at the end with a click of her fingers.

When did you start writing?
Like most writers, I scribbled stories from the age of about eight or nine. They were just bad versions of Enid Blyton’s adventure tales. I carried on writing while working as a journalist but I only had the courage to show anyone my writing a few years ago.

How long does it take to write a book?
It depends on the book and a lot of other factors. My first crime novel for adults took a few years, because I only got the chance to write now and again while working and having young children. The second adult novel only took a few months! The Serpent House took about a year to write the first draft but it’s been through a zillion changes, so all in all, I guess it took three or four years.

Where do you get your ideas from?
Everywhere! I’m a typical journalist – I love listening to what people say and to what they don’t say, and I’m always on the spy for story ideas. There’s hardly a day goes by when I don’t find myself thinking, ‘Oooh! There’s a good story idea…’

Do you base your characters on people you know?
Not deliberately! But I think all writers use little bits of people they’ve met and weave them together to make a composite character. My partner spotted the character of Tom in The Serpent House doing something that he regularly does. Fortunately he didn’t mind me pinching his actions to use in the book!

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Book Info


288 pages
Interest Age: From 9


Bea Davenport
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Curious Fox

Publication date

5th June 2014




Publisher Profile

Curious Fox is an imprint of Curious Fox


Curious Fox is an exciting imprint for young readers of all ages.  Our mission is to publish imaginative, creative, and jaw-droppingly enjoyable books that will take readers on a journey through new adventures and experiences. Inspired by the curious nature of the fox, the imprint is designed to spark the curiosity of young readers, from beautiful picture books; un-put-down-able middle grade series to thought-provoking YA novels. Curious Fox is also the official publisher of Warner Brothers brands including DC Comics Justice League, Looney Tunes and top dog Scooby-Doo.

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