ARC Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab // A Disappointing Book by a Fav Author… But Still Enjoyable (& Creepy)!

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.

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City of Ghosts

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

buddy read with Julianna and Melanie!!

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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.


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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.

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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)

shall we chat

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??

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33 thoughts on “ARC Review: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab // A Disappointing Book by a Fav Author… But Still Enjoyable (& Creepy)!

  1. Awesome post!! ❤️ It’s a bummer that you didn’t like City of Ghosts as much as you anticipated…
    I have been dying to read A Darker Shade of Magic, along with a million other books *i need more time to read* #bookishstruggles
    You have a lovely blog 🙂 I will check City of Ghosts our, even though it was disappointing!
    🌸Katie K🌸

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s always frustrating when a book can’t balance between the plot of the series and its own personal plot. But at least good characters?? The only other Schwab books I’ve read are the Shades of Magic series. I’m curious now what it would be like to read a middle-grade book by her. Perhaps I’ll have to add this book to my list…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. uh hello WHERE DID U GET ASH PRINCESS FROM and also that photo is beautiful!! I’m still really excited for this book because it just sounds so creepy and exciting and fhjsdgf. I’m sorry you didn’t LOVE it that much tho :( But I just requested an ARC yesterday and FINGERS CROSSED AHHH. Will you be reading the next books in the series?? Great review x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I GOT ASH PRINCESS AS A WRITING CONTEST PRIZE!!! And yesss it really is creepy and mysterious but it just wasn’t for me :// And aahh good luck!! If you don’t get the physical ARC I know a lot of people have been accepted for it on Edelweiss lately so you might wanna try that?? (And yeah I probably will be reading the next books — this one was enjoyable enough and I wanna see if it gets better lmao)


    1. I hope you like City of Ghosts if you end up reading it! Yeah I feel like Schwab is kind of banking on her YA/adult fans on reading this series (especially since there were a lot of Harry Potter references, and the older audience is usually more nostalgic towards HP)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review, May!❤️I haven’t read any books by Victoria Schwab, but I have really been wanting to read A Darker Shade of Magic. I haven’t heard of this one, but it does look super interesting! I’m sorry you didn’t love it but I’m glad it was still an enjoyable read. ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely review, May! <3 I'm sorry to hear you were a bit disappointed by some parts of these books and it's such a shame about that Lara character just being a plot device, from your description it seemed like she had a great potential :/ I'm happy you found some elements to like though, Schwab is incredible when it comes to creating new, intriguing worlds <3

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  6. Great review for this book May (I did have to skip past your con section when I realised it would possibly contain spoilers because, well I want to read this book and I want to try and avoid all spoilers) and I’m so sorry this wasn’t a good read for you. I love V.E. Schwab’s books so I’m really excited for this one, and I’m glad City of Ghosts has the same fantastic concept she’s known for (and like you said before how it’s evident it’s a Schwab book) but I may have to go in with slightly lowered expectations. You never know it may help me enjoy the book a little more. :)
    Do you plan to read the next in the series (I’m assuming this is a series? What you said about this book being set in Edinburgh and the others in other cities gave me that impression but let me know if I’m wrong in that count). If you do I hope you enjoy them more! :) ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Beth! And oh, I should have specified that there were no spoilers in my review (though you totally are free to skip whatever parts!) Yes, it definitely was very “Schwab” in the intriguing premise and creepy world, though unfortunately it didn’t do as well in plot as I wish it had! And yeah, I think if I had gone in with slightly lower expectations it might have gotten a half star more or so!

      Oh yes, I do plan on reading the rest of the series! This was still an enjoyable read for me and I want to see if I’ll like the rest of the books better :)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s all right, and oh that’s good to hear, but I’ll probably wait until I’ve read City of Ghosts before going back and reading your review in full (this is one of those books I want to go into as blind as possible)
        Well in that case my expectations are slightly lowered (as much as they can be for a Schwab book which admittedly isn’t that much!)
        That’s good to hear, and maybe the books will improve as the series continues, we can hope can’t we? :D

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for this great review. Plot is the most important element of a book for me and it’s such an absurd problem when a book’s main plot is overshadowed by the overarching series one. Like, why?

    I’ve seen the cover of City of Ghosts floating around but I never read the synopsis or learned what it was about and it sounds a lot like Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld with a girl who after a near death experience can see ghosts and travel between the worlds of the living and the dead…

    Obviously two books with the same concept can exist and be great in their own ways, but being so used to Schwab’s originality, I’m kind of bummed by the sound of this book. I’ll probably give it a shot one day though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank YOU for the kind words!! And aahh I totally agree, the book’s main plot being overshadowed by the series plot makes me really not care for what’s happening in the book :/

      Oh, I read Afterworlds some time ago but I forgot about that it was about a girl who can travel between the worlds of the living and dead! That’s a little suspicious, haha. But I hope you love the book if you end up reading it! <3


  8. Oh, that’s side to hear. I think I will still give it a shot because I really enjoyed the Shcwab’s book I’ve read. I’m a bit esitant for it being a MG, because I tried some in the past and those aren’t for me anymore. Or maybe it will open up some new bookish sides to me


  9. Oh I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it! I have read This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet and I loved it! I’m looking forward to this one but I hope you find a creepier read!


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