People think that ghosts only come out at night, or on Halloween, when the world is dark and the walls are thin. But the truth is, ghosts are everywhere.
Series: City of Ghosts
Length: 304 pages
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Book Description: Everyone has a ghost story. Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it!) she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead… and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost. So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.
When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil – and herself.
And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 4.5 out of 5 stars!
This was a perfect October read! Especially just before Halloween. I haven’t read a ghost story in quite a while, and this kind of hit the spot. Sure, it’s technically in that awkward spot between middle-grade and YA, but who cares? Especially from an author I love.
(If you didn’t know, “Victoria Schwab” is actually another name that V.E. Schwab uses for some of her books. She uses “V.E.” for her adult novels, and “Victoria” for her YA stuff.)
City of Ghosts centers around Cassidy Blake, a girl who gains the ability to see spirits after (nearly) drowning, as well as a new ghostly best friend named Jacob.
He looks up at the word ghost and clears his throat. “I prefer the phrase ‘corporeally challenged.'”
Jacob was a wonderful character. Funny, smart, and protective of his best friend. He brought some levity and personality to the story that Cass’s narration lacked.
Not that Cassidy was a boring narrator. Not at all. Schwab wrote the preteen-girl-with-a-secret trope very well. The problem is just that though – average preteen girls aren’t usually the most interesting of people. I can say this confidently from previous, personal experience. Being an average, preteen girl, that is. But because Schwab encapsulates Cass’s identity as a preteen girl who sees ghosts in a great way, I think she wrote a pretty relatable character for middle and high school aged kids.
(I have to stop typing “average, preteen girl,” or else I’m going to scream.)
Addressing the other characters… Cass’s parents were fun. Her dad was the no-nonsense, nerdy, history professor type, and her mom was the dreamer, who believed in spirits and such. Their family dynamic was great, and it was nice to see some actually nice to see some actual parenting in a YA book for once. Like, they actually noticed that their daughter would run off and disappear, and they grounded her for it. Thank you!
Lara Jane Chowdhury was also a welcome surprise. Like Cassidy, she can also see spirits and cross the Veil and back. Unlike Cass, she actually knows what she’s doing. Lara is crucial in that she finally gives Cass an actual character motivation, instead of just floundering around with her spirit powers.
I also loved how Lara took everything seriously and was super no-nonsense, a foil to the more creative Cass, as well as the more easygoing Jacob. She was the straight man of the trio, for sure.
I really adored the friendships here, too. Jacob and Cassidy’s was so, so perfect. You could tell that they were really important to one another. Adding Lara to the dynamic was fantastic as well. I love how much she grew to care about Cass, and how far she was willing to go for the newbie.
And there was no romance! (Spoilers?) It feels like there’s romance in everything nowadays, even middle-grade fiction, so it was a welcome surprise for me, as someone who’s growing tired of it a little. Like, why can’t they just be friends? Not that I’m against it or anything – I actually really like it most of the time! I just enjoy reading books every once in a while that focus on other types of relationships, other than romance.
Nothing happens until it happens, and then it’s already happening.
I love love LOVED Schwab’s descriptions of Edinburgh. They all felt so life-like and real. You can tell she did a ton of research, and that she’d travelled there before. I know she’s been to a bunch of places in Europe, and that she actually lived in the UK for some time, and it shows. I almost felt like I was there, walking around Scotland with Cass and Jacob.
If I had to pick one thing that I didn’t like, though, it would have to be the antagonist. I felt like they were kind of a weak villain. Their motivation checked out, I just wasn’t really into them. I guess you can look at them as someone whose empathy has eroded away over many years, and who has been acting out of desperation. It felt a little forced, to me. But, they did work as intended, so I guess I’ll give them that.
All in all, I really liked the book and recommend it to anyone, regardless of age. If this book sounds like your thing, then I hope you pick it up and enjoy it!
Thanks for tuning in, and have a wonderful day/night!