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Friday, January 17, 2014

"The Screaming Staircase: Lockwood & Co. #1" by Jonathan Stroud (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

 Visit Jonathan Stroud's Official Website Here 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Review of Heroes of the Valley Here

OVERVIEW: When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive.

Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .

FORMAT: The Screaming Staircase is book 1 in a series of books in the Lockwood & Co. series. It is a YA novel that has mystery, ghost hunting, modern day England, and a little humor mixed in with adventure. It stands at 390 pages. It was published on September 17, 2013 by Disney-Hyperion in the US and August 29, 2013 by Doubleday Children's Books in the UK.

ANALYSIS: Jonathan Stroud's novel Heroes of the Valley was one of the first few novels I read and reviewed for Fantasy Book Critic. It was not a favorite novel of mine and I was very critical of it. The premise for the Lockwood & Co. series seemed interesting, so I figured I'd give it a try. After all, all authors are allowed to have one bad novel – in this case Heroes of the Valley.

Let me just say that I loved Lockwood & Co. The entire book was interesting, captivating, and just all out amazing.

Lockwood & Co. is essentially a modern-day version of the Ghostbusters. The only difference is the ghosts have completely overtaken the world and are causing multiple problems for people throughout England and the 'Ghostbusters' in this case are young teenagers.

Young teens and young adults are the only ones to handle the issue, as they are the only ones who can 'see' the ghosts. And we all know you can't fight what you can't see. This leaves a bunch of teenagers working for various firms throughout England that cater to the elimination of ghosts and other spooky objects.

Lockwood & Co. is a small, private firm. It does not have the manpower or access to resources/money that other, larger firms may have, yet they are one of the best firms and given a very prolific case – after a string of some other odd misfortunes.

The entire novel is extremely fast paced and well-written. The main characters are extremely detailed with backstories and unique personalities. Lockwood, the owner of the firm, is mysterious and a bit quirky at times, while Lucy is a bit timid, facing tough times and plagued by a past that won't seem to leave her alone.

One of the main things that really made this book shine is its spooky, eerie feel to it. It wasn't scary, as in 'horror' scary. It was scary in a sense of ghost stories around the campfire scary. The ghosts that are faced in this novel are dangerous, have a past they keep reliving, and are not afraid to attack anyone who might try to eliminate or compromise their ghostly bodies.

There are several quirky/humorous elements to the novel that help relieve some of the spook/eerie factor. For example, one of the characters tests a ghostly object by bathing with it. There are also several humorous asides thrown in there that really made the book shine.

It should be noted that while this may sound like just any other middle school/YA ghost novel. It isn't. There is mystery, adventure, and spooky factors that really make this novel stand apart from the what seems like dozens of ghost novels published for this audience.

Everything about this book just screams (no pun intended) excellence. If you are familiar with Stroud's previous work in the Barimaeus series, you will find this fairly similar in writing style.

Overall, this is another amazing read for 2014. Even though it is a YA novel, it is written in a style that makes it ideal for audiences both young and old – NOTE: some of the backstories for the ghosts are a bit graphic and scary, so I wouldn't say to go too young.

One of the best and most captivating novels I've read in a long time.


Charlotte said...

I'm so glad you like it! We just shortlisted it for the Cybils in Middle Grade--the focus and swing of it seemed younger than YA.

I didn't like Heroes of the Valley at all myself, but if you want to try another of his, I'd suggest The Ring of Solomon--it is excellent.

The Reader said...

If its anything like the author's Bartimaeus series titles, then I'm in.


bascule said...

Seriously good read, I (51) and my step-daughter (19) both loved it and can't wait till the next one.

Cindy said...

@Charlotte I agree it's definately younger than YA. My library has it marked as 'Teen', which I think it really skirts the line between YA/teen. Some of the storylines/death issues might be too graphic for some younger children readers, so maybe that is why they put it there?

@Mihir it has that same tone to it. Different setting, characters, etc. But it is really good!

@bascule I can't wait till the next one either!


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