Who doesn’t like ghost stories? The kind that send chills up the spine, makes one’s hair stand on end and look askance at dark corners? The cover of City of Ghosts is certainly enough to send one hunkering under the blankets but then, is the tale itself scary enough to do all those things?
Cassidy Blake is 12, has parents who write books about the paranormal – her father to debunk and her mother as a believer. What her parents don’t realise is that Cassidy can actually see ghosts and when they tolerate her talking to her invisible friend Jacob they do not realise that he is actually a ghost – a young, comic reading, torn jeans and superhero t-shirt wearing, ghost.
Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts is set up as a series. Cassidy’s parents are making a TV series about ghostly legends in different cities across the world. In this book, Cassidy, her vintage camera, parents, their cat Grim and Jacob travel to Edinburgh to film the first episode of the series. Cassidy is excited to be in Edinburgh, not only the birth place of the Harry Potter books but a number of ghostly legends that she gets drawn into as she can not only see ghosts but also travel through the veil that divides this world from the ghostly one. She meets Lara, another young girl with similar abilities who explains to Cassidy the reason/purpose for being able to see the ghosts. But Lara is also very suspicious of Jacob and keeps warning Cassidy about him, thus expanding the mystery of his hanging around Cassidy. Truthfully speaking, we felt Lara was perhaps the most interesting character in the book and had some depth to her whereas the others only have potential.
While written for children the book has its creepy elements, more so if seen from a parent’s point of view. Though readable and interesting as stories go with flashes of V.E. Schwab’s flair for storytelling, the book is simplistic. Accept it, when it comes to ghostly stories for young people, the Lockwood series by Jonathan Stroud is now the standard. City of Ghosts does not manage to meet it.