By Jonathan Stroud
“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 specters, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humor and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again . . .” -Official summary
*Hey there, so this review has a couple spoilers in it… I know, I’m sorry I just CAN’T RESIST… anyway, I’ve tried to put big warnings before spoilers and turned the text a lighter color so that hopefully you have enough time to look away and run for your life if you see one coming. I’m sorryyyy I’ll try better next time!*
My thoughts: Aaaaahhhh where do I begin with this AMAZING series? I started out this book with low expectations, no one had ever mentioned it to me and it was just a random eBook I found. A few hours later, I shut the book, but it’s extreme wonderfulness never left me. The writing is flawless and captivating, I could not tear myself away for a second. From the very first page, I just HAD to find out exactly what this whole “Problem” thing was, how three kids were able to run a business on their own and like, do laundry and stuff (I can’t even do laundry) and why I suddenly need to live in this alternate- dimension London, even if I am not British and am too clumsy to fight ghosts.
The world building is crazy good. I felt so immersed in this world, although the time was kind of unclear. They wore like, shorts and shirts and such, but they didn’t have all the technology we have today, and it kind of had a more… I don’t want to say 1800s, per say… I dunno, it didn’t feel like the present, but it didn’t feel like the past either? This didn’t take away from the story though, I’ve kind of theorized that it takes place in the present, but because of the ghost thing, history kind of went in a different direction. I loved how the whole ghost fighting system and the rules for ghosts for coming back were so clear. I recognized the whole “ghosts are susceptible to iron and salt” thing from other myths, and that made it feel more familiar and recognizable. The lavender thing was new to me, but I enjoyed the addition, along with the iron chains and rapiers. It seemed like Stroud thought of every political/economical effect the ghost problem had on the world, like the DEPRAC units and the way agencies need supervisors for their agents since children can’t run successful companies, no sir, and the ghost lights and everything, RARR. It’s just so wonderful, I have lost the ability to handle it.
There was so much to love about this, I have no idea what to say next. The characters and their relationships felt so realistic. It’s really rare to find a book where the main female character is so well-written and relatable, especially when the book is written by an adult, not to mention a guy. Lucy is just so normal somehow, even as a ghost-fighting, rapier wielding English person. Her emotions are so relatable and she never acts like a jerk just because she works for a popular agency or anything like SOME agents do…
And don’t even get me started on George. He was so funny that I burst out laughing at regular intervals throughout the book. I think the danger with writing more edgier books is that the edginess kind of edges out (see what I did there) any real enjoyment? If you know what I mean? But Stroud does an amazing job of bringing in humor at perfect moments, and George is just a walking joke. (In an amazingly good way.) He’s so sarcastic and honest, and he isn’t afraid of letting anyone know what he really thinks, be it one of his best friends or a police officer.
*BEEP BEEP BEEP SPOILER AHEAD. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ PAST THE THIRD BOOK, DO NOT READ THIS GREY SECTION*
And SKULLY! Wow wow wow Stroud has somehow made me want a gross, sarcastic, evil skull in a jar as a best friend. I never thought it was possible, but here I am. Skully’s habit of handing out helpful murder-weapon suggestions and his ability to come up with the weirdest possible threats is somehow endearing. Honestly, his attachment to Lucy is soooo cute, even if he is a “tatty skull.” The idea of Lucy just carrying him around everywhere for companionship (even if she insists it’s just for his input on ghost-related things) is hilarious. I also love how he’s always making comments about Lucy and Lockwood’s cloudy relationship. And even as I write this I am laughing so hard as I remember that time he suggesting using a coat hanger as a garrote on Holly…
And how could I ever forget Lockwood! The book literally describes him as dashing at multiple points in the series, so there is no way he is not becoming my favorites character. He reminds me of Keefe from Keeper of the Lost Cities, but like, more mature, with the same “I am so confident and charming but I have a super sad backstory” kind of way, but with more mysteriousness and edginess. All in all, Lockwood is one of the biggest reasons I am so in love with this book.
And it wasn’t just the characters themselves that I love, it’s their relationship as a company, as roommates, and as friends. They work so well together as a team, and even though they argue sometimes, they always are there for each other in the end. This is a great example of a friendship that isn’t always perfect, but totally worth it in the end.
*POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD. IT’S PRETTY VAGUE, BUT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ IT, JUST WATCH OUT I GUESS*
The whole overarching conspiracy throughout the book just tore. me. apart. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, trying to piece all the clues together, and in the final confrontation… AHHHH!!! I won’t say too much, but the way Lockwood and Lucy were all nonchalant, and how it ended with just a battle of skills and wits and AMAZINGNESS in GENERAL… so beautiful.
And I was soooo sad about my poor Skully. I really want Stroud to return to this universe, but I’m kind of glad he ended it the way he did, because now I can imagine it however I want.
*SPOILER BEEP BEEP DON NOT PASS UNTIL YOU’VE READ THE THIRD BOOK*
Of course, no series is without its flaws, but this one definitely did not have many. One part I didn’t like was the entrance of Holly Munro. I feel like I could’ve liked Holly a lot more later in the story if the way she was described in The Hollow Boy hadn’t put me off of her forever. Holly just sounded so petty and rude, with the way Lucy described her little condescending giggles and everything. That just doesn’t sound like the Holly I know from the last two books in the series. I think this view of her is definitely affected by the fact that Lucy is the narrator, and she’s suddenly feeling like a stranger in her own home. Part of the reason I didn’t like this was because it seemed like Lucy’s biggest problem with Holly had to do with how pretty she was. Lucy was way too jealous and petty about it. Stroud did such a good job of portraying Lucy in the earlier books, and suddenly the whole Lucy/Holly deal felt like a stereotypical female relationship where the only reason they don’t like each other is because one is “pretty” and “put together” and the other is like a “tomboy” or something and they’re fighting over a guy. (Lockwood?) I dunno, it felt forced and not like Lucy.
And because of the way they thought, I did not like Holly much at all for the rest of the series. I mean, after rereading the series a couple times, she’s kind of grown on me, but Holly could have been so much more.
Anyway, there is soooo much more I could say about this series, like about every single George joke, Skully joke, anybody joke, anything about Quill Kipps (people who haven’t read it yet, don’t worry about Quill Kipps. He turns out to be a great guy in the end. You’ll like him, I promise) but I doubt anyone wants to hear it. :)> Sorry that this post was so long compared to others, this will probably be the format future posts will take from now on, so expect some longer posts. What can I say, I like to talk… or… write, I guess. Anyway, I highly recommend this series to anyone over the age of 12. There’s definitely a few creepy parts, but (and this may be just me) I felt like it wasn’t as creepy as the summary made it sound. I mean, if you really try to imagine the descriptions of the ghosts, like how they would really look if they were, you know, corporeal, there’s definitely some gory stuff, but other than that it seemed pretty okay. there’s a lot of talk of death, what happens when you die, that sort of thing, and some descriptions of murders and people dying and such, but if you aren’t squeamish you should be fine. There are a couple bad words, like “bloody —-” (they’re British) and a couple mild things like that, but as long as you can be mature you should be fine.
Overall I loved this series sooo much, and I can guarantee that you will enjoy it!