Pamela ✨I Blame Wizards✨'s Reviews > City of Ghosts

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
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I understand precisely zero of the love that Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts seems to get. This book failed to entertain on almost every conceivable level – from its unoriginal plot, through to its constant cross-referencing and clichés. I’ve heard so many good things about Victoria Schwab’s fantasy works, but given that this was my first book by the author it’s put me right off.

The plot of City of Ghosts is incredibly simple. Cassidy Blake is a girl who sees ghosts. Her parents research the paranormal, despite having no experience with it themselves. Her parents are given a television pilot to film in Edinburgh about local legends and ghost stories, so they go there and Cassidy experiences some ghostly activity, with a rather generic ‘big bad’ thrown in at the end just to make sure there was some semblance of a plot. That’s really all there is to it. None of the characters were interesting, well developed, or seem to show any interest or curiosity in what is going on around them, and the prose was practically bursting at the seams with Harry Potter references shovelled in like so much shit.

She bounces off with all the enthusiasm of someone rushing toward cake, not corpses.


“But it’s middle-grade fiction,” I hear you cry. “It’s not for you.” But that’s where you’re wrong. There have been so many amazing middle-grade novels written that tackle exactly this subject matter but with so much more dedication and entertainment value. Ironically, Harry Potter, which is so heavily referenced in City of Ghosts, is one of them. But the incredible Lockwood & Co. series, which I possibly love even more than Harry Potter, is another. Honestly, if you’ve never read it, let that be the one series you read this year. You won’t regret it. Children are discerning readers, and they deserve better than flat characters and even flatter plotlines. The mark of a well-written middle-grade story is if adults can enjoy it just as much.

Cassidy Blake as a character was flat and two dimensional. City of Ghosts is narrated in first-person, and yet the reader is never given a sense of who Cassidy is as a person. Most of her observances are either vague or non-committal in an attempt to artificially create a sense of mystery, and the rest of them are literal references to Harry Potter or pointing out how common words differ in British and American English. A good portion of the dialogue was dedicated to that, and it was just lazy writing. The difference between a ‘flat’ and an apartment, or ‘chips,’ ‘crisps’ and ‘french fries,’ is as easily conveyed through context as it is through blatantly pointing it out. It wasn’t cute or endearing, and it just made Cassidy come across as pretty vapid. She seems to have exactly no curiosity about her abilities or about the ghosts that she can see. Her near-death seems not to have affected her in the slightest. Not once does she question the why or how of her reality, she simply accepts it and goes about her day as if it’s completely normal.

Our memories change, too. (For instance, I swear the teddy bear I had growing up was green, but according to my parents it was orange.) But when you take a photograph, things stay still. The way that they were, is the way that they are, is the way that they will always be. Which is why I love pictures.


The side characters were basically just there to create the skeleton of a plot and got no development of their own. Cassidy’s parents were clichés, and their paranormal research didn’t seem to develop the plot at all except to act as a catalyst to take Cassidy to haunted places. It all just felt a bit convenient that the girl who can see dead people has paranormal investigators for parents – even though she never discusses her abilities with her parents, the only people on the planet who would be the most likely to believe her. Her best friend, Jacob, is a ghost, and he obviously has some kind of back story and ulterior motive, but this was never really discussed, and so obviously dangled as an incentive to read the next book that it just irritated me. Lara, the other ghost hunter, was just there. She literally had no development which was such a disappointment. She obviously knows a lot, but she just turns up, conveniently tells Cassidy what she needs to know and then says her goodbyes. She is obviously going to show up in future books as the whole ghost and veil plot develops, but she needed a little more in City of Ghosts for me to be drawn in to want to learn more. She acts as a plot device, and not an actual character.

Most of City of Ghosts is just Cassidy walking around, looking at ghosts (only looking mind, no interaction at all), talking about how much she loves Harry Potter, and thinking Scottish Culture is totally adorable (but only actually engaging with it in how it relates to Harry Potter). None of this is enough to sustain my interest or rate this book as anything other than ‘meh’. It was a ghost story that wasn’t scary, and a novel that was essentially plotless. Too many plot points were mentioned and not developed, and too many characters were introduced who were nothing more than plot devices. For all the wonderful things I’ve heard about Victoria Schwab as a writer, for my first book of hers, City of Ghosts was definitely a disappointment.
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Reading Progress

January 14, 2019 – Started Reading
January 16, 2019 –
page 50
18.38% "This is just so incredibly bad! How has anyone rated this highly? I'm almost thinking of DNFing it. If I read one more Harry Potter reference I may scream, and if I don't have something described at some point rather than just info-dumped at me, this book may get thrown across the room." (ebook Edition)
January 18, 2019 –
50.0% "It's definitely improving, but I'm still inundated with Harry Potter references, only now they're also punctuated with 'isn't it adorable how Brits and Americans say things different?' a few times every chapter..." (ebook Edition)
January 18, 2019 – Finished Reading
January 27, 2019 – Shelved
January 27, 2019 – Shelved as: children-s-fiction
January 27, 2019 – Shelved as: disappointing
January 27, 2019 – Shelved as: fantasy
January 27, 2019 – Shelved as: fiction
January 27, 2019 – Shelved as: ghosts
January 27, 2019 – Shelved as: middle-grade

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by Laura_sommeils (new)

Laura_sommeils I haven't read this one, but being honest: I think there's a lot of undeserved hype towards this author. I read the 1 and 2 books of her A darker shade of magic series and they were bad, I tried This savage song and it was terrible, I read Vicious and liked it but not as much as people who've been hyping the book because now it has a sequel.


Pamela ✨I Blame Wizards✨ I've had those on my to read pile for ages. I picked them up for the covers mostly. That designer deserves a raise! I might still give A Darker Shade of Magic a go this year, but if I don't like it, then perhaps Schwab is just not for me.


message 3: by Laura_sommeils (new)

Laura_sommeils Pamela wrote: "I've had those on my to read pile for ages. I picked them up for the covers mostly. That designer deserves a raise! I might still give A Darker Shade of Magic a go this year, but if I don't like it..."

The covers are gorgeous! What I didn't like with A darker shade is that I felt the premise was interesting, but the way she developed the story I felt wasn't as compelling, both in how she used the worldbuilding she created, and with her characters: Kell was bland and 2D, and Lila was annoying/I'm not like other girls!!!!! 2D. The only book by her I've enjoyed is Vicious, which I admit is good, but I don't think is as good as people are hyping it up now that the sequel was published (which I might read, but I'm not sure because I've read Vicious years ago and I didn't love it as much so I'm not that interested in re-reading)


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