#ReadingMyLibrary Update: The Screaming Staircase

Posted April 14, 2015 by Alison's Wonderland Recipes in Reading Challenges / 1 Comment

Last week I announced that I’d be taking part in the #ReadingMyLibrary challenge for the month of April, because I love libraries…and any excuse to read more! 🙂

For those who didn’t see the announcement, the rule of the challenge is that you need to read at least one library book and discuss it in either a blog post, #ReadingMyLibrary main page comment, or social media post. Since I found out about the challenge just after my weekly library visit, I’ll be discussing the books I picked up that day: the first two installments in the Lockwood & Co. series by Jonathan Stroud.

screaming staircase
“…stop worrying about the past! The past is for ghosts. We’ve all done things that we regret. It’s what ahead of us that counts.” — Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase

Lockwood & Co #1: The Screaming Staircase

SUMMARY (from Good Reads)

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigation 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 . . .

THE GOOD

  • Stroud does a great job making the ghosts realistic by tying them to a set of rules. They make the environment cold, drain the will to live from anyone observing them, and can’t stand iron or salt. This grounds the story and allows you to focus more on the plot and characters, rather than fixating on the premise.
  • The descriptions are amazingly vivid, especially when it comes to the ghosts. You can see detailed images of the ghosts in your mind’s eye, and they’re truly eery. Also, the sensation of “ghost lock” is described so well that you can actually feel it happening to you a little bit along with the characters.
  • The dry wit I came to love in the Bartimaeus books is back in full force. I couldn’t get enough of the snappy dialog and Lucy’s quippy narrative style.

THE BAD

  • The summary gives the impression that the book will be scary, which isn’t really accurate. True, I’m older than the intended audience, but I don’t think even my 12-year-old self would have been frightened by the book. The ghosts themselves are scary-looking and dangerous, but the plot is more of a paranormal action story. The wry attitude of the characters also does a lot to mitigate the scariness of the ghosts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it makes the subject of ghosts accessible to young readers in a fun way. However, I don’t think the publishers were right to bill it as a scary series for young readers.  The fact is, if you’re looking for a scary story, this isn’t it.
  • Despite the fact that the Lockwood agents are the main characters, Stroud doesn’t fully define the team’s roles and relationships with each other until the 3rd or 4th chapter, long after we’ve met them. Lockwood and Lucy’s roles are clear, but George’s presence confused me at first. I just didn’t know why he was around. Later, it became clear that he was a researcher who also assisted in on-site investigations. It was then that I began to see how he, Lockwood, and Lucy fit together as a group. However, it would have been better if he’d been shown in his role at the very beginning, like the other two team members.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Despite a few complaints, I think this series is off to a really strong start, and I’m looking forward to starting book two. Stroud has created a complete world that is unique, yet has all the believability of the world we know—no small accomplishment. Even though it’s only the first book, there are hints that the series will delve more deeply into WHY ghosts have become a problem, and I’m really excited to see how Stroud addresses that.

What’s your favorite paranormal book series?

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