“Ghost watching is a two person sport.”
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 Inspecters 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.
TW: death (including child and animal death, but not in graphic detail; it’s ghosts, comes with the territory)
Going into this, I knew City of Ghosts wasn’t going to be my all time favorite Schwab book. It’s a middle grade book, and I’m not the target audience. Simple as that, and not a judgment on the quality of the book. That also means the half star I took away was because I felt it was missing something and didn’t enjoy it as much as I might have if it had had that extra something. A half star off for me not being as invested as I could have been is pretty great, especially considering that I loved the rest of it.
It feels exactly like a middle grade novel about ghosts should. It’s brisk, filled with recognizable references to comics and Harry Potter that an MG audience will have no trouble picking up on (and will probably be excited by), and best of all, it’s COZY. You wouldn’t necessarily expect a book about a drowned girl and her best ghost friend to be so cozy, but honestly, it’s delightful and makes for a perfect autumn read despite the summer setting. You can thank the Edinburgh weather for that.
And oh my gosh, I loved the characters. I loved the way Jacob and Cass interacted, the way Lara slowly got pulled into the fold, the little quirks of some of the minor characters like Findlay, the lore behind the big bad.
Incidentally, I believe I saw on V’s Twitter that all the ghost stories of Edinburgh in this book besides the big bad are all based on real stories! I love that so much, because it really grounds this story in a way that’s a little hard to do when you’re writing about a girl who can see ghosts and pass beyond the Veil. Seriously, it helps so much with suspension of disbelief.
So does that atmosphere! It’s what I read VE Schwab books for, regardless of the age range. She’s so good at crafting an atmosphere and pulling you into the setting, and I appreciate it so much, especially as someone who gets nervous about traveling. A book is the next best thing, you know?
Anyway, if you like ghost stories and world travel and fast-paced middle grade books that aren’t too heavy on complex plots, this is probably the book for you! Bonus: there’s also a black cat lacking in, I quote, “basic feline dignity,” so you might also like that as well. Everything is improved with cats, right?
Have you read City of Ghosts already? Not yet? What did you think? And man, what is up with that Schwab Cover Aesthetic™? She gets the best black/red/white covers… 😍