Review: The Screaming Staircase

The Screaming Staircase
The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unlike the last book I reviewed, this one is not tough. The Screaming Staircase is a very good book, with a few small issues.

I saw this book mentioned by a literary agent on Twitter as the kind of middle grade horror they’d love to represent. Intrigued, I fired up my Kindle app and dove in. I was not disappointed.

Prose – Strong, elegant, and consistent, but not always efficient.

At a writing convention I attended last year, a speaker said “Use 3 sentences for description, tops. Anything more and you risk MEGO in the reader,” (My Eyes Glaze Over). I hadn’t read anything since that convention where MEGO was an issue, but it periodically was with this book. For example, a secondary character’s description is given 8 sentences. 135 words, including “resplendent” to describe his mustache. Yes, it paints a thorough picture, but after this happened several times, I found myself stopping at the second or third sentence and jumping to the next paragraph. This was my only gripe with the writing, though. Overall, it’s quite good.

Story – In a world where “Visitors” (ghosts) are a publically-recognized threat, children-who are the only people who can see the spirits-risk their lives to put the ghosts to rest. The story is told by Lucy, the newest member of the London-based ghost-fighting agency, Lockwood and Co.

The story is engaging, with the main focus on a violent ghost attached to a locket the team finds on an investigation. The best (read-page turner) scenes are those where ghost-fighting takes place. The author creates a real sense of danger by not only describing horrific manifestations, but also reminding us throughout of children who’ve lost their lives combatting ghosts. This results is gripping waves of dread and relief. The main story’s climax, while predictable, is also satisfying.

By the end, I wanted more, and look forward to reading book 2.

Favorite thing – The sense of dread the author creates in ghost-involved scenes.

Least favorite thing – Overwritten character descriptions that stop the story dead and leave no room for your imagination.

Overall – Recommend.

View all my reviews

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