City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of GhostsInformation

Goodreads: City of Ghosts
Series: Cassidy Blake #1
Source: Library
Published: August 28, 2018

Official Summary

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.

Star Divider


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.

3 Stars Briana


13 thoughts on “City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

  1. Jheelam says:

    I’ve read only “Vicious” by Victoria Schwab. And despite glowing reviews, found it “criminally” underwhelming as well. If you like reading horror, would highly recommend “Bird-Box” and ” The Fisherman” (if you haven’t read them already).


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Thank goodness! I still might give one of her adult books a chance, but it seems as if everyone is *obsessed* with her, and I just didn’t see it in this book. I’m so glad someone else feels the same way about her writing!

      I haven’t heard of those two! I will have to check them out sometime!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. MetalPhantasmReads says:

    I wasn’t the biggest fan of her books so this one was a nice surprise for me! That sucks that the hype might’ve gotten to you :/ it didn’t for me for some reason. I agree that the concept of the dead and being alive was great, as well as the friendship. Great review!


  3. Grab the Lapels says:

    I thought Schwab wrote adult fantasy (or maybe even YA). I didn’t know she wrote middle grade books. I think half the fun of being a kid is the ability to be scared senseless, to let your imagination almost take over reality so that you’re practically seeing things! It doesn’t work for me anymore as an adult. I did love the Goosebumps novels because who knew what was out there, or in the basement, or locked in the attic. WHO KNEW?? 😀


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      She has both adult and YA books. I read somewhere that she “started” in middle grade, which I actually didn’t know. I never associated her with MG, but then I have never read anything by her before! :p

      I hated being scared as a kid, so I never read the Goosebumps books. I guess any kid who really doesn’t like scary things probably isn’t about to read a book titled “City of Ghosts” either though!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Yeah I really found this an underwhelming book- by Schwab’s standards or otherwise. The sad thing I thought was, having lived in Edinburgh, that the stories I’ve heard a lot of the stories before and loved them, but they didn’t do anything for me here. I personally don’t think it captured the eeriness either. I really don’t care to read more of this series either. Brilliant review!


  5. saraletourneau says:

    Sorry to hear you didn’t care for City of Ghosts. (Especially I remember recommending the book to either you or Krista….) I do agree that it’s not one of Schwab’s strongest books, though I did think the friendship between her and Jacob was sweet.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, the weird thing is I don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with the book for the most part. It’s just one of those books where I think “Oh, that’s nice” and really have nothing else to say about it, which I found odd considering how much other people seem to love it.


  6. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    I keep reading books by Schwab, and I keep having a similar reaction – “It was fine, I suppose; I liked aspects of it.” I’ll probably still give this one a try, since it’s ghostly middle grade. (Actually, I’ve had it on hold since August…)


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