Victoria Schwab is really quite versatile. She is a prolific writer with more than 20 distinct titles to her name just at the age of 34. That’s quite the breakneck pace of authorship. Admittedly, I’m rather skeptical of authors who crank novels out so quickly. What I often notice is that a superb debut is often followed by a string of lackluster disappointments. I realize much of this is due in part to pressure put on authors by publishers and die-hard fans salivating over what could be the next big obsession. I sympathize, because that must be a dreadful feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at all claiming Schwab is guilty of this. Frankly, I haven’t read enough of her work to make up my mind, because I’m still relatively new to the Schwab library. If you’ve read quite a lot of her work, please feel free to weigh in in the comments.
Of the ones I have read, I’m impressed by how well she can write for both adults and for young adults. While this series and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue are both delightfully atmospheric, they are still quite unique in overall tone. LarRue has a much more overtly cerebral tone while the Cassidy Blake series is geared toward young adults with fewer complex themes and a more straightforward story line. The lines between good and evil are pretty clearly drawn and there’s little left to wonder about.
Cassidy Blake is unlike other kids her age. For starters, she had an almost complete brush with death and lived to tell about it. Second, and very related to the first thing, she can see ghosts and can travel to a place she calls “The Veil,” a type of in-between place separating the lands of the living and the dead. Her parents, oddly enough, are ghost-hunters who can not actually see the dead, and they have no idea that their teenage daughter can. When her parents announce that they will be piloting a television show that will take their family around the world to the most haunted cities on planet Earth, Cassidy knows her life is about to get even more complicated than before. This first novel in the Cassidy Blake series takes the family to haunted Edinburgh in Scotland, a city rich in history and teeming with ghosts with unfinished tales. While Cassidy is prepared to encounter ghosts, she is not prepared for the Red Raven, a ghost local legends claim is responsible for the disappearances of numerous children spanning across decades. When the Red Raven turns her gaze to Cassidy, she begins to wonder if her gift is more like a curse.
I was definitely in the mood for this book at the time. I needed something a little lighter, if you can call a spooky story about dead children and the evil woman who lured them to their doom light…
Lighter than a Stephen King book but drowning a Beverly Cleary book with the utter weight of despair. It’s an extremely quick read and it doesn’t tend to drag. As a matter of fact, I got through this one and the second book in the series within one week of listening on the Hoopla app through the library. Also, I love creepy stories. I get positively giddy about Edgar Allan Poe, so a quick story like this is like a breath of fresh air from the complexities and monotony of adult life.
There are also a host of quirky characters. Sometimes Cassidy got on my nerves, but I’m not sure there has been a teenage character who was ever 100% completely charming unless it came from a John Green novel. And even then it’s definitely not a guarantee. Probably because I am the parent, I actually found Cassidy’s parents quite charming. It’s funny that they are off desperately seeking evidence of ghostly activity when their daughter is just around the corner having a full-on conversation with an actual ghost. As usual in a YA novel, the parents are completely oblivious to pretty much everything. Always the last to enter a room stating “what did I miss?” Cassidy is joined in her quest to defeat evil by two others, her best friend, Jacob, and new friend Lara. Lara shares Cassidy’s gift of seeing the dead and Jacob is a ghost. Since Lara spends her time busting ghosts, she does not look kindly on Jacob and feels Cassidy should do her job and send him to the hereafter. Secondary conflict adequately achieved.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book that provided plenty of excitement and entertainment. I was willing to go straight to volume two, which is a good sign. I did take a break before picking up the third one, simply because I was in the mood for something different, but I will return and finish the series one day. I give this one 4 stars.
Published August 28, 2018 by Scholastic Audio. ISBN 1338310801. Runtime 5 hrs, 2 mins. Read by Reba Buhr.