Book Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Posted September 5, 2013 by Kara in book review, Kara / 12 Comments

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan StroudThe Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #1
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 17th. 2013
Genres: middle grade, paranormal
Pages: 390
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren't exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see—and eradicate—these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business. In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day? Readers who enjoyed the action, suspense, and humor in Jonathan Stroud’s internationally best-selling Bartimaeus books will be delighted to find the same ingredients, combined with deliciously creepy scares, in his thrilling and chilling Lockwood & Co. series.

I had no idea what to expect from a Jonathan Stroud novel. The only thing I knew was that he is a seasoned author and that I’ve had his Bartimaeus Trilogy on my TBR list for years. I don’t know exactly when I will get around to reading that, but I can tell you that I am glad I got the opportunity to read his latest, The Screaming Staircase.

It was such a fun book and I found it easy to get lost within its pages. Considering how difficult it is for me to maintain any kind of attention span these days, that automatically gives the book some major points. The writing is easy to read and lose yourself in. But what makes this book one of the best I have read this year is the atmosphere by far. This has a little to do with world building, a little to do with the story, and a whole lot to do with imagery. Everything just melds together in such a way as to make it feel very, very real and as if you are standing right next to the characters as they enter each decrepit building for their next ghost hunt.

That’s right. This is a book about ghost hunting! Definitely not in the manner it is portrayed on television by any means, and in a much more inventive way. There are salt bombs, Greek fire, iron chains, rapiers, and I loved it. The world building and the attention paid to detail and getting everything right was superb. 

I’m not a fan of spoiling the plot for you or summarizing in my reviews as I like the reader to go in and experience everything for themselves, so I will just leave you with the blurb and my feelings for this book, and hope that is enough. There were times when I was a little bit frightened. I wouldn’t say the book was particularly scary, but it was incredibly riveting and spooky. It’s a page turner, for sure. There are delightful touches of humor interspersed in the narrative–more towards the first half of the book than the second as things start to get serious. The lot takes a bit to get going, but it does start off with a bang. It then slows down a bit and lets you get to know the characters and the world they are living in, which frankly I did not have a problem with as I found it visually arresting from the get go.

I always like to mention why I didn’t give a book a higher rating if I can, and I will here. There is no particular reason why it shouldn’t get 5 stars from me, as I truly loved it and almost did give it that rating, but because of the lack of emotional connection to the characters, I feel like I missed out on something. It has a fantastic plot and setting, but I never fell for the characters in the way I was hoping to. That, and there was the fact that the ending was utterly predictable. That doesn’t mean it was a bad ending, as I enjoyed it, I was just hoping for something more. Something I wasn’t able to figure out on my own. And it just wasn’t there. I know that is the case with quite a few middle grade novels, and I don’t always deduct points, but I guess I was just hoping for something a little more exciting, considering how the rest of the book was. 

I recommend this one to fans of paranormal novels like Long Lankin and Death Watch by Ari Berk. I also recommend this one to fans of Gothic fiction. There is no romance this far in this series and I could not be more thankful. As much as I like reading romance sometimes, this was a breath of fresh air!

I’ve added the book trailer below, which is a bit like an interactive game. I played around with it and I thought it was cool. Much like a choose your own adventure. The starting trailer is here:


12 responses to “Book Review: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

  1. I loved The Amulet of Samarkand – my family and I listened to the audio version on a very long car trip and we all loved it. It’s kind of like a darker Harry Potter but he has his own take on the magic. It’s really nicely done. I’ve got this one to read and I can’t wait to get to it.

  2. Amy

    This sounds really great!! I love great world building. I really love great characterization too as I am a very character driven reader, but it sounds like overall this was really good. Fabulous review hon!

  3. I’m a huge fan of his Bartimaeus trilogy…. you should definitely get those from your TBR pile. I haven’t read this book, but by way of characters, the Bartimaeus books had such fantastically done, both likeable and detestable, characters. I’m definitely going to get a hold of The Screaming Staircase, especially after such a favourable review.

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