A disclaimer to start: I arrive at this book a stalwart fan of Jonathan Stroud, and so had high expectations. I was not disappointed.
I started slowly, my brain apparently stymied by the image of people carrying rapiers on the Tube, or corner shops selling magnesium flares, but that quickly turned to delight as I got the hang of the world changed by the ghost phenomenon. Once I was immersed, I read the last third of the book like I was on fire. I then very calmly emailed a school librarian of my acquaintance with the news that there was a TEENAGER STEAMPUNK GHOSTBUSTERS book, which I didn’t know had been a gap in the market until just then.
The book itself is balanced between three central characters, two boys and a girl each sharing the duties of ghost hunting. Like another famous children’s Trio of recent years, these three too have their own skills, none of them feel extraneous, all of them with well rounded and interesting personalities. The girl is the most important character (hurrah!) but there is a decent balance between the action for all of them, and the book pleasingly demonstrates the ability of the three to be friends without the need for romantic element (at least yet, I suppose it’s a possibility in later books if he continues).
The dual mysteries of the book are both disquieting and engaging, and as soon as they enter the house at the end, the tension ratchets so fast I could barely keep up. I’ll be extremely interested to see where the series goes next, the world he is creating has a great deal of potential, and I’d love to see it in greater depth.