The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

creeping-shadowSince April, I confessed my obsession with Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series. I could not wait to get my hands on The Creeping Shadow, so I eagerly preordered my first book since the final Wheel of Time. It came in the mail two weeks back, and I devoured the entire thing in a matter of days. If you missed my review of the first book in the series, here’s a quick summary: In an alternate version of modern-day England, ghosts come back to haunt the living. Because only sensitive children can see and hear the Visitors, children are pressed into service by the various psychic detection agencies founded to deal with The Problem. The series follows the young adults of Lockwood & Co., the only independent (adult-free) agency in London. I don’t usually like scary books or movies, but I love this series. Stroud interjects his trademark humor into even the creepy bits, which keeps everything pretty light. Plus since the series is written for a late elementary/early teen audience, the gore and the horror are relatively mild. I haven’t enjoyed ghost stories this much since staying up late to watch “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” as a kid.

This installation opens with Lucy’s efforts as a freelance agent, but it doesn’t take very long before she is working with Lockwood & Co. temporarily on an especially difficult case. There is no better Listener in London, and Lockwood hires Lucy on for a one-time stint with the agency. Because Lucy is on her own for much of the book, some of the banter between Lockwood, George, and Lucy is absent. I missed George especially, since he is my favorite character. Stroud makes up for the lack by giving us plenty of action and some back and forth with Lucy’s skull-in-a-jar sidekick. (If that last sentence made no sense, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that one of the funniest characters in the whole series is actually a talking skull.)

I listened to the audio versions of the first three books in the series, so I wasn’t sure how the experience would change when I was reading the book. One thing I enjoyed about listening to the earlier books is how immersed I felt in the environment of the story. I wanted to maintain the experience, so I forced myself to slow down while I read (which is not the norm for me). I intend to purchase the entire series in print, but I almost enjoyed it more on audio.

I erroniously thought this was the final book in the series, so I was not expecting the ending at all. Stroud ended this book (and the others in the series) in the very best way: the action and problems of the book are neatly concluded but a larger threat still looms. In this case, I actually flipped back to the beginning to read through a few chapters again after the final cliffhanger to search for clues I’d missed. (That is one definite advantage print books have over audio.) It made me wish I had the entire series in print to go back and consult as well. Since I own the fourth book in the series in hardback, I guess the only thing left for me to do is complete the set.




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