I have this thing with Schwab’s books. I just don’t know what to do with them. They all sound so cool and thrilling and unique and inventive and I’m usually extremely excited about them. The thing is just…whenever I start one of her books I get stuck. I don’t get farther then the first few pages before I get bored or distracted and the book confuses me or just doesn’t hook me. Usually it takes about three to four trys for me to get anywhere with Schwab’s books. It’s like it’s jinxed and it frustrates and generally disappoints me. But not so City of Ghosts. City of Ghosts was amazing.
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.
Most of City of Ghosts takes place in Edinburgh. The descriptions of the city definitely added to the atmosphere of the book and I really loved it. It kinda made me wanna pack my bags and visit the city for myself, to go exploring and drink up all the stories the place has to offer. Talking about atmosphere, I loved the whole feel of the book. It had something grey to it, something unknown, twisted but at the same time an air of curiosity. That is also somehow how I would describe the main character:
Cass – a young girl who a little bit-almost died a year prior to the events of the book.
I really liked Cass. She was curious but also cautious and just plain likable. She still has to adapt to the changes the near-death experience has brought, which means ghosts, obviously. However, she’s also not sure what the rules are and still has to learn via trial and error. The second main character is Cass’ best friend Jacob who is a ghost. I quite liked him as well. He was more careful than Cass, more worried and somehow also more secretive. There were definitely things that he kept from Cass and that I hope will be explored in later books.
The story itself is engaging and fun, with eerie and creepy and also solemn tones. There is a lot of exploring going on, in the world of the living and behind the Veil as well. It’s full of stories and encounters, natural and supernatural, and I liked the way how you experience Edinburgh and the Veil with Cass.
Topics like death, friendship, honesty and trust are important in this book and dealt with in a very child-friendly yet mature way. I didn’t have the feeling that a kid would feel patronized with the way these subjects are addressed.
All in all, I think this book has everything what a spooky Middlegrade book needs. It’s eerie and a little creepy, has great characters, an interesting, engaging story and great pacing. It might be a little bit too scary for younger readers on the MG scale but it’s definitely an adventure.