I mean… you can’t love ALL the books from your favorite author, right?
(Shhh I’m still trying to console myself over the fact that I was disappointed by a Schwab book.)
I rarely read middle grade novels, save for Rick Riordan and other favorite authors. I really hoped I’d love this one, since again, Victoria Schwab is one of my favorite authors ever. But the thing about this book is that it was good, but it could be so much better.
It was enjoyable! I had fun! I was engaged! I was never bored! But there was just one major thing that bothered me the whole time and I couldn’t stop thinking about it while reading.
VICTORIA SCHWAB || AUGUST 28, 2018
Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.
When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn’t sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn’t belong in her world. Cassidy’s powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.
thank you to Scholastic for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review! this did not affect my opinion in any way
THE GOOD THINGS
I think one of Schwab’s best writing talents is her ability to create fantastically strange and mysterious concepts, and that is clearly evident in this book. It’s about a girl named Cass who can pass between the worlds of the living and the dead, and can see ghosts. This happened after she almost drowned, which is when her dead best friend Jacob showed up as well.
When I first read the blurb, I was in love with the concept of the story. A girl who can see ghosts? Traveling to a city full of them? With a ghost best friend? Then meets another person who can see ghosts? SOUNDS GREAT, I’M IN.
And luckily, for the most part, City of Ghosts delivered!
Cass and Jacob were interesting characters to read, and I loved their friendship dynamic! Jacob is super intriguing (especially on matters of his death) and I would’ve loved to learn more about him and his past.
There are also some nice side characters! I LOVED the villain, the Red Raven. What she does (stealing the souls of children for herself) is 100% My Thing™. As in, what I like to read. Not what I do. That would be… disturbing, to say the least.
The story is also really fast-paced, and it has enough creepy vibes that makes you a little excited but also a little afraid. (Or maybe the afraid part was just me.) I was engaged the whole time, and never once got bored.
I also LOVED that this was set in Edinburgh; if I’m correct, each book takes place in a different city, which I think is super cool. I loved getting to know different places around the city and it definitely added to the atmosphere of the book.
THE BAD THINGS
The most disappointing thing about City of Ghosts is the LACK OF GOOD PLOT DEVELOPMENT. I’m just… so worked up over this for no reason??? Like COME ON. Of all things, it was THIS that disappointed me.
I can’t say much without spoiling but it’s just like. the main conflict was kind of introduced in the beginning? And then it got smothered by other things. The issue is that there are kind of two plots here (the Red Raven one is specifically for this book, while the “figuring out what this whole ghost thing is” plot is an overarching one for the whole series) and the plot for the whole series just… took over.
Basically, the first 2/3 of the story were filled with 1) exploring the city, 2) trying to figure out the full scope of Cass’s abilities (and responsibilities), and 3) buildup. It was relevant to the series as a whole, but it wasn’t relevant to the specific book, and it ended up bothering me a lot.
Usually, if a plot isn’t good, it doesn’t bother me as much, as long as I like the characters and their development was good. And while I like how Cass and Jacob turned out at the end of the book, and the villain, I was really disappointed by how little we got to know a side character named Lara.
Lara is an Indian girl who can also move between the worlds of the living and dead, and I really thought we’d see more of her. In reality, she showed up briefly in the first third, came back in the last third, and disappeared. The blurb says that after Cass meets Lara, she starts to question what she can truly do, and it seems like Lara is basically just a plot device. WHICH IS ANNOYING.
City of Ghosts is an atmospheric, creepy book that will definitely keep you engaged with its fast pace and intriguing characters, but the lack of proper plot development might be a bother to you.
I really do think that this is a “it’s me, not you” scenario, so I’m really confident that other people will like it more! It’s got that dark vibe that all Schwab books have, though fortunately, there is no heartbreak. (BESIDES MINE FOR HAVING TO FEEL THIS DISAPPOINTMENT.)
:: rep :: Indian side character
:: content warnings :: death (mostly of children), abduction (mostly of children)
are you excited to read this book? have you read any other books by victoria schwab? did you like them? do you know any other creepy ghost books? and have you visited edinburgh (or any other city with creepy history) before??