Paranormal Fantasy has never been a genre that I go to. I read a few paranormal books a long time back but it doesn’t appeal to me. When I heard that Victoria Schwab wrote a book in this genre, I immediately marked it as to-read.
Victoria Schwab is the bestselling author of the Shades of Magic trilogy, which is now in the works to be turned into movies. While she had only written Adult books previously, City of Ghosts, a book for Middle Grade children, has been widely accepted and praised. I didn’t get to the book very soon but the amount of praise online finally got me to pick it up.
City of Ghosts is about Cassidy Blake who can see ghosts. Her parents write books about ghosts and paranormal activity but she can actually SEE ghosts because of a near death incident. Cassidy hasn’t told her parents about it, though.
Ever since the day she almost died, Cassidy has been able to see ghosts. Somehow, a ghost named Jacob had saved her and dragged her back to the realm of the living. In the process, Jacob ended up getting dragged back to Cassidy’s side of the realm as well. He also soon became her best friend and constant companion.
Cassidy also gained the ability to go through The Veil, which is what she calls the shield/barrier between her realm and the one of the lingering dead. When there is a ghost lingering nearby, she feels an incessant tapping that won’t go until she meets the ghost and finds out it’s story.
When Cassidy’s parents get a TV show deal about haunted places and ghost stories, they decide to travel to the places that are rumoured to have the most paranormal activity. The first stop in their schedule is Edinburgh, Scotland. The older parts of Edinburgh is the place where every person has a ghost encounter story of their own.
“New Town is relative,” Mom explains. “It’s still more than two hundred years old. Old Town,” she adds giddily, “is where all the best ghosts are.”
– City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
“And where are we staying?” I ask. I know the answer before her finger lands on the map, right in the middle of Old Town.
Cassidy expected more ghosts but she never expected to find another person like her. When Cassidy meets Lara, a girl who can see ghosts like Cassidy, her world takes on a new meaning. Lara is a “ghost hunter” and tells Cassidy that as an “in-betweener”—someone who has the ability to travel to The Other Side—their job is to help the ghosts move on. Lara also believed that Jacob did not belong with Cassidy and should move on, which Cassidy doesn’t agree to.
When Cassidy tags along with Lara once and helps a ghost move on, she feels relief like never before. The tapping stops even though there are other ghosts around. Now she has a purpose, and she wants to help more ghosts.
But all is not well in Old Town. A ghost legend about the Raven in Red which every person living there knows about turns out to be true. The Raven in Red draws children to her using hypnotic music and steals their life force, and now she’s coming for Cassidy.
“People think that ghosts only come out at night, or on Halloween, when the world is dark and the walls are thin. But the truth is, ghosts are everywhere. In the bread aisle at your grocery store, in the middle of you grandmother’s garden, in the front seat on your bus. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there.”
I liked the book right from the start. Written in Cassidy’s point of view, the book starts with the above quote and seamlessly transitions into Cassidy’s introduction. Cassidy’s narration made me like the book a whole lot more. Cassidy’s thought process was entertaining. I liked the way she thought. Her personality and character was unique, unlike many of the characters that I’ve come across.
Cassidy doesn’t like the spotlight and is of the opinion that being popular is a lot of work. She’s content being with her best friend Jacob being a ghost and going around looking for ghosts when she feels the tapping. But she would like a break from the ghosts. When a ghost is around, she can’t concentrate on anything because of the tapping. She’s not fond of ghosts, except Jacob.
Jacob was nice, too. I really liked his character. He’s eternally a teenage boy in casual modern clothing. He’s always there for Cassidy and literally follows her everywhere. He’s quite funny because he keeps talking to other people, knowing that they can’t hear him. Jacob also gives hilarious reactions when people go through him as he’s actually a ghost.
He looks up at the word ghost and clears his throat. “I prefer the phrase ‘corporeally challenged’.
Jacob in The City of Ghosts
Cassidy and Jacob have their highs and lows in this book. They particularly have different opinions after meeting Lara. I didn’t warm up to Lara, or specifically like the parts of the book with her. She was a good addition to the story but I didn’t like her.
My favourite parts of the book were the ones about The Veil and The Other Side. I could imagine exactly how they were described, and they completely drew me in. The writing style was great because I became immersed very easily into the book. And since the book was quite short, I could finish it in one sitting. The book was very enjoyable even though I don’t usually like books in the genre.
I definitely suggest this book if you’re looking for a light book about ghosts. It would also be great for middle grade students who want to read about an interesting and different story.
Happy Reading !!