Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase

by Jonathan Stroud

Grade: 4 stars
Story summary: Lucy and her co-workers, Lockwood and George, own their own ghost-hunting business. (Yes, they are teenagers, but it actually makes sense in this world, as the young are they only ones who can see ghosts.) But their cases have gone badly recently and they're desperately low on funds, so they agree to take the case of one of the most haunted houses in England.

Thoughts: Normally horror, including ghosts and the paranormal, isn't really my thing. There needs to be something else (generally awesome characters) to allow me to enjoy it. Thus Anna Dressed in Blood was able to be one of my favourite books read last year, due to its humour, great characters, unusual romance, and gorgeous cover. Supernatural, similarly, is one of my favourite TV shows because of Sam and Dean and Castiel and mostly just how darned funny it is. But frankly, despite how essentially intertwined the ghostly elements are with the plot and story line of that show, I could actually do without them. But this book--this book is one of the only times I have actually greatly enjoyed that part for its own sake. Jonathan Stroud created a world which preyed on my Ravenclaw nature. I wanted to know how it all worked. The world building isn't completely original (it has many of the standard ghost-hunting tropes, although several new elements too), yet somehow it completely fascinated me.

And, as is normally the case with me and Jonathan Stroud, I really liked all the characters. George is really funny and grumpy and more complex that one might expect. I rather wish he was not looked down on quite so much, especially concerning his weight. However, you really do get the impression that it is Lucy's personal bias at work here (Lockwood doesn't have the same reaction to him). Lucy is talented and spirited without being a clich├ęd YA heroine. And Lockwood himself is charismatic and wears long coat. In a lot of cases I might decide this makes him to much of the kind of handsome hero I find fairly boring. But actually, I liked him immensely, though I wouldn't have expected to.

It's not quite up to the standard set by the Bartimeaus trilogy (spoiler warning for the Bartimeaus reviews, if you plan on reading them), but then very few books are. And even with the Bartimeaus series (as amazing as it is) you don't realize the greatness of the character arcs until you've read the whole trilogy. And this series has lots of potential already, so I am terribly excited to see what comes next.

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