Book Review: The Whispering Skull

the-whispering-skull-review

The Whispering Skull is the sophomore entry to Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood and Co series. It takes place a few months after the end of the previous book. The members of Lockwood and Co are starting to get more work their recent successes. One such job is botched spectacularly and their job is taken over by Quill Kipps and his team from Fittes Agency. However, soon another job lands on their feet as a local businessmen employs the help of Lockwood and his agents to help defend them against the horrors of the night while they excavate a cemetery. They discover the remains of cult leader Bickerstaff and a mysterious bone glass. And when the bone glass is stolen, Lockwood and his team must race against Kipps to retrieve it while tracking down relic-men, swindling black market dealers and attempting to communicate with a skull in a jar.

I’m really enjoying Jonathan Stroud’s writing so far. There’s a certain voice to it that is familiar, in a way that I can only describe as decidedly British. It’s reminiscent of Harry Potter or any Enid Blyton books. There’s a “Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”-ness to it. Like in “But tea bags, brown and fresh and plenty of them, and made (for preference) by Pitkin Brothers of Bond Street, are perhaps the simplest and best of all.” I don’t know if it’s just me and I would seriously love to hear your opinions on it, if you’ve read Lockwood & Co.

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Doubleday Childrens Cover

The Good

I love the characters in the series. I just can’t get enough of them. The banter between the main characters is fun and they’re just lovable fools, botching every other job. Honestly, I’m surprise that they’ve survived so long in the world they’re in. I mean, on their day, they’re pretty capable but the rest of the time… it does make you wonder. The Skull is also a very fun addition to the story. His quips and talks with Lucy were some of the best parts of the novel. It’s almost an honorary fourth member at times, though I’m interested to find out more about who he was and what his motives really are.

The story structure really lends itself well to the series. Each book deals with separate cases, but the character arc progresses in each of the books. Each book starts sort of the same way too, easing you back into the story no matter how long away you’ve been. They all start with the trio on a case (at least in the first three books), which reintroduces you to the world and how things work.

I really love the world too, as I said in my Screaming Staircase review. I would love to see more works set in it, and I think that the Creeping Shadow is not actually the last book, like I think it was. So there’s more books coming and I’m totally fine with that. I would also love to see a game or some kind set in the world, where you could manage an agency and help deal with the Problem. Something like Middle Manager of Justice would work, where you build up your base, recruit and train agents and then some them to fight Visitors.

The Bad

Cliffhanger endings for crying out loud! I’m super thankful that I have the Hollow Boy on my shelf when I finished this one. You don’t end on something huge like that! And it’s only about 100 pages into the next book that you get some sort of continuation from this book’s ending. So I guess it’s really just a tease instead of a cliffhanger? But I really, really want to know what is going on with Lockwood’s past! Hollow Boy offered us a greater glimpse into his past, but I really, really need to get to the Creeping Shadow. It’s sitting on my shelf mocking me. But this series tendency to end in a cliffhanger though…

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German cover

Others

Did anyone notice that one of George’s defining traits in this one is curiosity? Curious George, heh. In any case, there are something of a discrepancy in his actions. He’s very curious and often research to find out about something, sometimes in questionable ways, but he’s totally fine with Lockwood’s secret room. One way of seeing it is that George is very loyal to Lockwood, which is the case. Another argument is that George’s unhealthy curiosity in this book is influenced by something else. Which is also the case.

One possible issue people might have with the Whispering Skull is its predictable story. The first book had that same problem too. But the way I see it, it doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the story. And I’m still reading on to find out if I’m right or wrong. Plus the characters and the world more than make up for it.

Verdict

A fun, spooky ride. Highly recommended for anyone of any age group. Honestly, it’s not that scary at all. If I have to rank the books, I would say that this one just about edges out Screaming Staircase because of the Skull. I really enjoyed reading him.

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