There are few places in the world more fitting as a setting for a ghost story than Edinburgh (yes, I’m biased, what of it?), and in City of Ghosts it’s clear to see that Ms Schwab not only agrees, but revels in the darker side of the city’s history. This book is a love letter to that history, and it’s appropriately chilling in itself.
Let’s take a look at my first selection for Spooktastic Reads!
Cassidy Blake’s parents are The Inspecters, 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.
Something I’ve noticed more than once when reading a book by V.E. Schwab is that I end up wishing it had been longer.
This is really my only nitpick with City of Ghosts – I wish there was more of it.
Little time is wasted setting up the scenery here, and it’s a good thing too because I love a good yarn set in one of my favourite cities. A ghost story set in Edinburgh? Gimme.
But before we get to the spookery, we need a little setup, and in this case it’s an intriguing one. Cass can see ghosts, thanks to a near-death experience. Her parents are professional ghost-hunters; her father’s the academic, the skeptical one, while her mother is the face of their TV show, the ‘believer’ who revels in all things paranormal. Neither of them truly believe that their daughter can actually communicate with spirits, however (naturally) – even when her closest friend is a ghost, and often right there in the room with them.
The friendship between Cass and Jacob is mostly sweet, and a little bitter: Jacob somehow rescued Cass from drowning, and in so doing brought himself over from the spirit world into hers, having formed a bond of sorts with her. There’s enough mystery left hanging over this bond that we’re given something to chew on, and I hope we get more of these books because I want answers! What secrets is Jacob keeping? Why are there some things he can’t tell her about himself? Can he really be trusted, or will he prove to be dangerous to Cass?
But all of that’s for a future book. For now, there’s Edinburgh, and one spine-chilling legend in particular which haunts the city…
When the Blakes decide to visit Scotland as the first stop on their newly greenlit ghost-hunting TV show (The Inspecters, which makes me giggle even while I want to roll my eyes at it, which is probably par for the course with such things), they probably don’t expect that they’ll actually encounter any spirits. And, strictly speaking, they don’t. While they get the tourist experience of Edinburgh, it’s Cass who gets the real thing, up close and personal.
The story rattles along a little bit too quickly, perhaps, to really give me as a reader enough time to soak up the chills – and I never doubted that things would work out. That said, I was here for the scenery first, and that much I certainly got.
Edinburgh is as much of a character in this story as any of the people, and rightfully so. I love to visit Edinburgh just to walk around and soak up all of that atmosphere, and there is plenty of it on the page too. Seriously, if you’ve never gone there and you get the chance? Take it. Words can’t describe it well enough. That’s possibly me being overly nerdy, but I mean it. Edinburgh’s awesome, and it’s really nice to see it getting some love here.
From Mary King’s Close to Greyfriars Kirkyard, Cass goes from chasing ghosts to being chased, and whether it was the length of the book or simply my enjoyment that kept me going, it was all over too quickly, darnit! I won’t say much more on account of how recently the book came out – I don’t want to spoil anything – but the story of the Red Raven is certain to spook anyone with a shred of a soul, and really, if the only thing I can complain about is that Ms Schwab didn’t take longer to tell the story, I call it a win for her.
One ghost story, thoroughly recommended!