I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Sci-Fi Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: death, abusive families
What if death is only the beginning?
When Harriet Stoker dies after falling from a balcony in a long-abandoned building, she discovers a group of ghosts, each with a special power.
Felix, Kasper, Rima and Leah welcome Harriet into their world, eager to make friends with the new arrival after decades alone. Yet Harriet is more interested in unleashing her own power, even if it means destroying everyone around her. But when all of eternity is at stake, the afterlife can be a dangerous place to make an enemy.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
To call this an interesting book would be a bit of an understatement. It’s the strangest book of hers that I’ve read, as it’s all the interpersonal drama of a houseful of ghosts interrupted by the whirlwind arrival of a new ghost.
I was debating between making this a 3.5 star read after the sheer level of bizarre that is the ending (everything that happens once Norma arrives on the scene, basically), but I’d really enjoyed the first two acts, so ultimately decided on 4 stars.
Harriet is a very interesting main character. She’s so self-centred and single-minded, willing to use and discard anyone to get her own way. It made her really hard to like, because she was just causing so much chaos – hurting basically everyone she touched.
She’s what is often called an unlikable character. This does prompt the question of would she be considered more likeable if the character was a Harold? Frankly, I wouldn’t; her motivations and morals are so shaky, and actions pretty reprehensible. Her excuses are flimsy too (which is shown).
Having an unlikable lead is no bad thing – it allows for a very complex lead who is their own worst enemy. Most of the problems are instigated or fuelled by Harriet. There are other antagonists who use the chaos she creates to build to the sheer horror of the ending, but they couldn’t have planned her actions better.
Alongside Harriet, the story is also told by the ghosts she falls in with. There’s also a mystery POV who talks directly to the reader. It’s a pretty omniscient POV, with a lot of information about how it’s going to play out. I loved the mystery of this POV, trying to work out who was talking and how they knew everything.
Trying to genre characterise this book is a nightmare. Sci-fi? Horror? Fantasy? The ghosts with powers is certainly blurring across speculative fiction boundaries. Waterstones has it down under both horror and sci-fi, so I went with sci-fi as I didn’t want to add another column to my reading spreadsheet!
Read my reviews of other books by Lauren James:
The Watchmaker and the Duke:
- THE STARLIGHT WATCHMAKER and THE DEEP-SEA DUKE (#1 and #2)