This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Historical Romance, Urban Fantasy
Published by Tantor Audio
Released on November 27, 2018
I happened to see the blurb on this one and it checked off so many boxes for me: Gilded Age NYC, spiritualists and ghosts, detecting, disappearances, and something ominous happening. But, let’s not forget a favorite narrator was doing the storytelling. It was sure to delight me.
The Spectral City opens with a prologue that had me riveted right from the opening sentences. A ghost heeds calls for help and finds herself trapped in a horrific way. Next, the scene shifts to a young woman, who as a powerful medium, sees, hears, and senses ghosts. She and her knew Ghost Precinct have been endorsed and launched by Governor Teddy Roosevelt himself. The fact that her staff are women and are spiritualists who admittedly work with ghost staff is a huge strike against them and there are constant barriers, but Eve and her people are dedicated to their work so they will stand firm hoping that some day tolerance and respect will catch up.
Eve becomes aware that one of her own own ghost friends is missing and the whole spirit world is unsettled about something really bad associated with Maggie’s disappearance. Everyone searches for Maggie and then they get a new case of a missing girl which is quickly followed other cases that may or may not be unrelated.
Eve’s liaison to the regular police force, Lt. Horowitz, is a certain attractive skeptic who makes her heart zing, but he’s open to any help he can get solving the crimes and notices her just as much as she does him.
If her work life isn’t already busy, her misguided parents are pushing her to step back into her traditional role to marry well in the upper class social circles to which they belong and leave her ghosts behind. They want nothing to do with the ghosts after their own trauma from their early acquaintance so she feels isolated and unappreciated in her own family.
Things do come to a head, but there are more questions than answers when the story ends.
The Spectral City was full to the brim of amazing worldbuilding and a vibrant premise that definitely had my attention. Ghosts and mediums solving crime, oh yes! I found this world of NYC in the Gilded Age, paranormal elements, mysteries and detectives, and all the fascinating backgrounds of the circle of Ghost Precinct staff as well as Eve’s family quite incredible. Some very exciting and even moderately chilling story path’s were begun in this book. A lovely camaraderie of diverse women who are more like sisters and this includes their ghosts was also a bright and shining part.
But, as fascinating as all that was, this book had the troubles a first book in a series, but (and this is a first) also the problems one can encounter if one dives into the middle of an existing series. It was the weirdest sensation to feel I was being inundated with too much going on and having things over-explained, but at the same time, a strong sense that a whole book worth of story line must have come before this one. I would have rather trimmed up the places that felt over-explained and definitely the places where I was treated to the same topic for the half-dozenth time and taken all those extra pages to have gotten the parts in active voice present that the author chose to summarize in passive voice about how Eve and her Gran came up with the idea to use her ghosts and her ghost talent to solve crime, how the ghosts came to be tethered to her and the Precinct, and how the other mediums came to Eve and helped her solve cases so that Roosevelt backed them and gave them their own Precinct offices. There were references to past adventures and all those introductions that would have made a great first book or at least a prequel.
This sensation of feeling like I was missing stuff made me go back to investigate and, though there wasn’t a prequel, there was an original series this one spun from- the author’s Magic Most Foul trilogy. However, that series featured this heroine’s parents and grandparents and their story wrapped up and had a very different plot that was utterly unconnected other than carryover characters.
I guess my point about that tug o’ war of too much and too little is that the reader needs to be patient through to the second half of the book because it takes a while to get rolling. But, when it does, it makes up for the sluggish start.
Nineteen year old Eve was an interesting blend of someone who acted exactly her age and someone I could barely believe was only that age. She’s in charge of the Ghost Precinct and she is not reticent about having that control and responsibility. She micro-manages and constantly has to be reminded to be a team player and pace herself. She’s driven and is like a bloodhound on the scent who is oblivious to anything but what has her focus. She tends to insists on people seeing things her way, but at the same time tries to be patient about ‘bringing them along’ She can get the ‘woe is me’ going, but doesn’t wallow in it. She has inner strength and a deep capacity as a caregiver and protector. I enjoyed her character and particularly when she is around Lt. Horowitz who flusters her and around her Gran who is her mentor and friend offering unconditional love and support when her parents cannot though they do love her.
I should probably mention that this one ends on a cliffie. Things start to get mighty interesting and Eve and the other’s are just realizing what they are up against and all the danger when it closes out to be continued.
I listened to this one and I chose to because the talented Tavia Gilbert was narrating. Her voices of both genders and many ages were superb. I found her accents both a few regional and also the International accents fun. This was a large cast of characters and there was so much going on that I credit Ms. Gilbert for me not getting confused and able to stay in step with this book.
All in all, I came through to the end feeling pleased to have experienced the book- particularly the author’s colorful and creative world- and look forward to what will come next. This one crosses so many genres (historical, urban fantasy, mystery, thriller) that I’ll just say that if that sort of mash up tickles your fancy give it a try.
My thanks to Tantor Audio for the opportunity to listen to this book in exchange for an honest review.
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