This is book two of the Lockwood and Co. series. I thought they were going to be a trilogy, but after I looked up the description for the new book I’m not so sure. We could be looking at a longer series for those who think the more books the better.
The Whispering Skull is a little different from its predecessor. Instead of one haunting and a feeling of survival, this book takes on a more significant mystery role.
After Lockwood and Co.’s success with the Screaming Staircase and the Red Room, business has not increased as much as it should. While trying to compete with other agencies for the big cases Lockwood and the gang are continually running up against Fitz agent Quill Kipps and his team. With tension rising between the two rivals, an opportunity arises for them to pit their skills against each other to prove who is the best. So when a dangerous artifact goes missing after an assignment, Lockwood and Fitz are assigned to find it and return it to DEPRAC for containment. But complications arise as bodies start to pile up and a skull in a jar begins talking to Lucy, telling her things that cause her to question her trust in herself and her team. Soon Lockwood and Co. finds itself competing against several parties all vying for the object, some of which have less then friendly intentions once they get it.
As was discussed in my review of the first novel, the interruptions of the story for character development were somewhat bothersome, but I found them better managed in this book. Jonathan Stroud uses a technique common in many young adult novels in which he describes characters we have already met in the previous book. The purpose is sound; the author does this to help readers remember who is who and what they look like. I had just finished the first book so this was somewhat bothersome, but that’s a personal problem. For those of you who find this irritating, don’t worry; if you didn’t mind it in the Harry Potter Series than you won’t mind it here either.
I thought this book was better than the first in many ways. First was the plot; I found the events more exciting. Second was that it was more character driven; the key moments, especially, were created and solved because of character decisions, both good and bad. Overall, by the end of this book I felt I had a deeper relationship with the characters that wasn’t fully developed in The Screaming Staircase.
Third goes along with the first. The tension was much more significant. In the first book I felt like I was being introduced to everything. The intimate tensions were more in the shadows while Stroud took the opportunity to develop the world and the story. With his second book he was able to bring out other details that he couldn’t include at first. This added greatly to the character development as well, but the tensions created several layers of plot within this story that made it even more of thrilling and entertaining read.
This is a book I would recommend to all who enjoy young adult fiction. The idea of ghost hauntings isn’t the most original setting, but Stroud took a well used idea and created a new and imaginative story for the paranormal genre.