To no one’s surprise, I have read another book by Victoria (V. E.) Schwab. This time, it’s one of her middle grade novels, City of Ghosts.
Cassidy Blake was normal, until a year ago, when she nearly drowned in an icy river. Since then, she has been able to see ghosts, and cross into the Veil—the realm where spirits exist. Now, her best friend is a ghost named Jacob, and together they try to understand Cass’ power and their strange connection. Then Cass’ parents—paranormal specialists/authors—take her to Edinburgh, Scotland to film a television show. There, Cass and Jacob encounter more ghosts than ever, meet a mysterious girl who seems to have the same ability, and are chased by a frightening figure called the Raven in Red. And so Cass realizes she has a lot to learn about her powers, and the strange world she’s found.
I loved that this book takes place in Edinburgh, where I’ve visited. Many places mentioned, like Greyfriars and the castle, were wonderful to visit again, even just on the page. Schwab captures the energy and atmosphere of this city perfectly, and Cass’ journey takes her through many fantastic spots there. And there are plenty of fun Harry Potter references.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed the plot. The explanation of Cass’ powers is flawless, and watching her knowledge increase throughout the plot is interesting and entertaining. (Basically, for those who have read Vicious, Cassidy is an EO—though I don’t think this book is set in the same universe.) As the tension mounts, it’s hard to put this book down. It’s a quick read, but is paced perfectly.
The characters are wonderful. Cassidy and Jacob are an excellent dynamic duo; they are funny and caring, and understand each other well. Their rapport is endearing. I especially love that Cass is mostly unafraid of ghosts and haunted locales, while Jacob—the actual ghost—is often terrified. Cass’ parents are cool, providing some real life ghost stories and histories as a frame for the actual adventure; Lana serves as a somewhat enigmatic but helpful guide for Cass; the other ghosts are frightening, varied, and… well, haunting.
In the end, I really enjoyed City of Ghosts. It’s a perfect book for middle-school kids to read around Halloween. Lots of frightening imagery, fairly high stakes, and a plot centered around ghosts might not be suitable for everyone, but it’s fine for someone who wants a spooky adventure with clever characters, a cool setting, and a delightful pair of characters at the center. Schwab has another winner with this one!
Overall rating: 8.5/10