Goodreads: City of Ghosts
Series: Cassidy Blake #1
Published: 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.
I picked up City of Ghosts after hearing fabulous things about Victoria Schwab but never having read anything by her. I figured that I like middle grade, and it’s short, so City of Ghosts might be a good place to start. It always has tons of rave reviews on Goodreads, many of them from adults who admit they don’t normally even read middle-grade. My own experience, however was…underwhelming. I finished the book thinking that it was fine, competent. But I wasn’t that excited about it.
I have family members who are interested in exactly the types of things the book is based on–ghost stories, ghost tours in historical cities, ghost hunting shows–so I thought I would probably be able to relate. However, I just never found the ghost stories in City of Ghosts that compelling. I imagine they’re actually all real Scottish legends, but I guess you lose some of the atmosphere when you’re reading them in a book instead of walking around cemeteries and visiting creepy basements with a old-timey dressed tour guide carrying a lantern. I, a genuine scaredy-cat, was not really feeling the eeriness of the book, but that could be a plus for a middle-grade novel. You want to appeal to kids who are into creepy stories without completely scaring them out of their wits.
I did like the exploration of what it means to be dead/alive and the take on the spirit world. I also enjoyed the relationship between Cassidy and her best friend, who is a ghost (and doesn’t like to be called a ghost; he’s a bit touchy about it). But…still. Whenever I think of the book, words like “competent,” “capable,” and “well-structured” come to mind. It’s fine middle grade, truly. It’s just not exceptional, so this may be a case where the hype ruined the book for me.
This is clearly meant to be a series where the protagonist goes to different haunted cities and hunts ghosts, but I can’t express how much I simply don’t care. Reading this book was enough for me; I don’t want to see variations of the same plot play out in different settings as Cass episodically hunts a different bad ghost each time. (Admittedly, I’m just assuming that’s what will happen; I don’t actually know.) It’s a solid read, but I really wanted more, and I won’t be continuing with the series.