Book Review: The Whispering Skull

Posted March 4, 2016 by Kara in book review, Kara / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Whispering SkullThe Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #2
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 16th 2014
Genres: middle grade, paranormal, fantasy
Pages: 435
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

In the six months since Anthony, Lucy, and George survived a night in the most haunted house in England, Lockwood & Co. hasn't made much progress. Quill Kipps and his team of Fittes agents keep swooping in on Lockwood's investigations. Finally, in a fit of anger, Anthony challenges his rival to a contest: the next time the two agencies compete on a job, the losing side will have to admit defeat in the Times newspaper.
Things look up when a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co. to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor who reportedly tried to communicate with the dead. Saunders needs the coffin sealed with silver to prevent any supernatural trouble. All goes well-until George's curiosity attracts a horrible phantom.
Back home at Portland Row, Lockwood accuses George of making too many careless mistakes. Lucy is distracted by urgent whispers coming from the skull in the ghost jar. Then the team is summoned to DEPRAC headquarters. Kipps is there too, much to Lockwood's annoyance. Bickerstaff's coffin was raided and a strange glass object buried with the corpse has vanished. Inspector Barnes believes the relic to be highly dangerous, and he wants it found.

This series is probably the most fun I have had with a middle grade series since Harry Potter. No, it is NOT Harry Potter because that series is legendary, but it is ALMOST just as entertaining. They are definitely upper middle-grade, because the books can be quite scary. I mean, I’m an adult and they get me a bit nervy in certain scenes. It’s a good kind of nervy, but as a kid that would have translated to pretty DAMN scared. Ghosts are creepy–especially ghosts like these.

It’s difficult to review a second or third or fourth book in a series because you can’t talk about what has happened in a series thus far without spoiling things from the first book. But I think one of the most important things to mention is that you CAN absolutely read these as standalones. At least so far. The first book and the second book are independent stories, though they do feature the same characters. There is enough summarizing and character development for a new reader to be able to catch on. That said, read them all if you can. They are awesome!

Sometimes, because books middle grade books are for kids, it feels like authors skimp on world building and exposition because kinds care more about the excitement of a book, but I am happy to say there was no skimping here. And the best part about it? None of the excitement was lost. This is a TIGHTLY plotted book. It is tense and paced at a speed that I rarely see nowadays. There were ZERO boring moments, and all the snappy dialogue happened during scenes that were exciting as hell.

I loved the writing. Every last bit of it. It flowed, the humor was to my taste, and I’ve decided that I need to be reading more British authors. I just loved the humor and the one-liners so much! The characters  were quirky and entertaining as usual (though their arc does not change much in this second installment), and that is a bit sad. But I still loved him just the same. But I think that and the fact that wasn’t as intrigued by the story arc in this one as I was the first, is what kept this from being a 5-star book for me.

I highly recommend reading these if you are looking for an escape, excellent fun, and some creepy thrills and chills.


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