City of Ghosts: A genial enough middle grade story

City of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsCity of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsCity of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab

City of Ghosts (2018) by V.E. Schwab is a Middle Grade book that, well, reads like a Middle Grade book.

In other words, it’s entertaining and engaging enough for that age group, but doesn’t have the depth or complexity in plot or characters to expand beyond that audience, which I’m clearly well, well outside of.

Ever since she almost drowned, young Cassidy Blake has been able to see ghosts, to “pull aside the veil” and step for a brief time into their world.

She’s also picked up a best friend — Jacob — a ghost of roughly her own age.

Cass is looking forward to a nice easy summer at the beach, but instead her author parents, who write about the paranormal (dad’s the skeptic, mom the believer), have been picked up for a TV show and so the family heads off to Edenborough.

Tunnel of Bones (City of Ghosts #2) (2) Hardcover – September 3, 2019 by Victoria Schwab (Author)

Sequel

There Cass meets another girl, Lara, who shares her ability and even seems to know more about its rules and purpose. On the darker side, she also meets the Red Raven, a malevolent spirit that steals away children.

As noted, I’m decades removed from the age group here, so keep that in mind. That said, while I think the book would go over decently enough for its middle grade target, it felt like a missed opportunity to me.

The plot is simple and straightforward to a fault I’d say, even for its age group, and its parts put a bit too neatly together. And while the prose is smooth and the pacing good, the language and style are pretty flat and the frequent references to Harry Potter felt somewhat forced past the first few. Finally, there’s little character development throughout.

City of Ghosts is a genial enough middle grade story that is mildly tense and will probably please most of its audience sufficiently enough that they’ll pick up book two, Tunnel of Bones, but it would have been nice to see it push itself a bit harder.

Published in 2018. 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. #1 NYT bestselling author Victoria Schwab delivers a thrillingly spooky and action-packed tale of hauntings, history, mystery, and the bond between friends (even if that friend is a ghost . . .).

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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One comment

  1. Is she using Victoria for this line to differentiate from the Shades of Magic/Villains books, which are clearly meant for adult or at least young adult readers?

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