Title : Lockwood & Co
Author : Jonathan Stroud
Publisher : Random House
Genre : Paranormal, Young Adult
Source : Self
Rating : 5 stars
“God rest her soul and may she never walk at night”
If you enjoy a nice rush of adrenalin from fictions, vivid ghosts roaming around, strong characters, funny dialogue and an overall well-built fantasy world in your paranormal young-adult, this is one series you shouldn’t miss.
Lockwood & Co. is an on-going series of paranormal fantasy written by Jonathan Stroud, who is also known for his Bartimaeus series. Of the Lockwood series, there are 4 books published, the latest one being just released this month.
The world of Lockwood opens up with an alternate England where the dead hardly remain under the ground. The world as we know has been taken over by the ‘Problem’ which causes ghosts and their various forms to wander around after dark. But the only people who can sense and see these disembodied apparitions happen to be children below fifteen years; once they cross this age, they slowly lose their ability and are left vulnerable to the incorporeal nastiness – a position that the adults always find themselves in. Agencies are set up with the children given training to lead the war against the ghosts, armed with salt bombs, iron chains, magnesium flares and loads of courage.
The series follows Lucy Carlyle, a ‘Sensitive’, the term used to describe a person with the ability to sense ghosts, and her joining the Lockwood agency, the smallest agency in London with only 2 other members – Anthony Lockwood and George Cubbins. Lockwood & Co., while being the smallest agency in England is also one of the few to remain independent in its functioning – no adult intervention or supervision. Upon joining, Lucy fits right in and the agency goes on to solve cases of the restless ghosts and determining the reasons of the hauntings and of the Problem itself.
While the books in the series can be read alone, it’s most fun when read in order as there are tiny details to a character that could be missed if not read. The series is rich with description, emotions, humor, wit and lots of action! While the series’ description calls it a young-adult aimed at middle graders, the series has so much to offer to any paranormal-action lover. The world is well fleshed; all the nuances chalked out and it offers a well-rounded plot-line. For instance, every apparition the agency deals with has a backstory of how it came to be – revenge or unfulfilled wish or simply a strong attachment to the object (Source, which is how the ghosts manifest) in question?
Stroud does an amazing job at imbuing the environment with everything spooky imaginable. Strong vocabulary combined with his skill at writing makes a reader imagine exactly what he wants to get across. The sense of urgency and dread is well built; add to that a sprinkle of suspense and hints of mortal danger – and there is your perfect weekend read. The narrative is usually fast-paced as Lockwood & Co. always manages to find itself in the midst of everything paranormal – the plot is ever thickening!
Of note about the protagonists (and other characters involved) is the characterization. There is nothing two-dimensional about them. They do not fall prey to the stereotyped young-adult ‘fluff’. They are strong, independent young ones with their stories, motives and abilities fueling them, making them uniquely original. Nobody is ‘dashingly’ handsome or ‘devilishly’ cool to the extent that it puts readers off. They are just kids trying to stay alive while helping people out with the hauntings. In the words of Lucy Carlyle, “I wasn’t pretty, but as my mother once said, prettiness wasn’t my profession.”
This brings me to the second attribute of the series: the females are plain badass – which makes sense because there’s no time to be sexist with ghosts (and people) waiting to take over the world. Agents like Lucy, Holly and Flo Bones (a girl on a different level of badass) are depicted to be better and more capable than their male counterparts on certain counts. It’s refreshing to see this kind of a perspective in a children’s book, having girls head toe-to-toe with boys – equally daring, smart and unblinkingly valiant.
The development of the characters is also well scripted, with Lucy coming off as the most human, which could also be because the series is narrated from her perspective, making the readers hear her voice the most. That said, while the development of others’ might seem slow, it is definitely there. The interaction between the agents of Lockwood & Co. alone makes this book a worthy read. The banter and dialogue between them is true to a teenager stuck in a paranormal world. There is nothing extremely romantic between the characters (they are only around fourteen!). Lockwood comes off as the mysterious, optimistic, reckless and loud leader, George being the ever-required sarcastic, critical, experimental ‘researcher’ of the group with Lucy being talented, witty, emotional, and the most human of the three (and no, it’s not because she’s a girl).
One gripe I do have with the series is that it never goes into the question of the Problem itself. The author keeps referring to George working on the advent of the Problem, but there’s nothing more to add to it. Four books in, and it still feels like ghosts just started appearing out of the blue for no good reason (which is how it happened) around half a century ago. With the kind of time the agents working across the world had, it would make sense that somebody would have theories, if nothing concrete, about how the issue came to be. But nothing of this sort is mentioned and that makes the series slightly lacking – there’s a paranormal situation that people are living with for about 50 years and nobody has the slightest clue how it happened. How are people okay with that? Then again, the series is on-going, so there’s hope it will turn out to be a big reveal at the end. Fingers crossed.
To conclude this long review, Lockwood & Co. happens to be one of the better written young-adult paranormal series that I have enjoyed to the greatest extent possible (re-reads included!) It is difficult to judge which the best quality of the book is – the atmosphere, the characters, the action – because it’s all there and it’s all out there to give you a good spook!
Reviewed by Mitra Somanchi
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