As much as I hate doing a review on an incomplete series, I feel now is the best time to talk about the books as I’ve just finished the most recent one, The Creeping Shadow, and the fifth book doesn’t even have a title yet. By the time I read that one I won’t remember anything about the first four. All that being said, I’ll follow my usual rule and avoid spoilers altogether, as this is still an ongoing series.
Lockwood & Co. is a fun young adult series by Jonathan Stroud, author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, which is an odd series of books in its own right. They’re both supernatural fiction series (I had to look up what it was called because “urban fantasy” doesn’t really describe either series). They’re also both set in a not-so-modern England, and the premise of Lockwood & Co. centers around ghosts.
The ghosts are pretty much what pop culture models them to be, though obviously in this series they are a reality. They all have a source, or something that ties them to the ‘real’ world’, and for whatever reason only kids can see, hear, or feel them. As people age into adulthood, they lose their ability to sense anything ghost-related, so this world ends up solving the problem by setting up several agencies where kids are the ghost hunters and the adults are the supervisors that handle the paperwork.
The smallest agency, however, has no adults. Its founder is the illustrious Anthony Lockwood, and rather than governing dozens or even hundreds of agents, it is merely him and his two friends, George and Lucy, handling the business. The story is told in Lucy’s perspective, and the books themselves take on a sort of suspenseful murder mystery more often than not. These ghosts can kill them, after all, and they have to figure out what happened in order to set these ghosts to rest.
Now, as with Jonathan Stroud’s other series, the best aspect of these books isn’t the plot or the characters, but rather the charm. The narrator, Lucy Carlyle in this series or Bartimaeus in the other, often carry a sarcasm or wit about them that makes a lot of the situations they find themselves in rather humorous. Often when I explain this sort of thing I’d include an example, but alas, the best ones I can think of all have spoilers in them! Rest assured, Stroud does a phenomenal job giving his characters maximum use out of the irony they happen to come across, and the books are, as I said, a lot of fun. Also, as a very small side note, but something that should be taken as quite an accomplishment, this is probably the first series in which I’ve wanted to see two characters get together. Often I hate that, and I can’t really explain why this time its different, it just is.
Touching on what I would call the largest shortcoming of the series (I like to say at least one positive and one negative thing in these reviews), is the lack of scope. In the Dresden Files, you get a small-time wizard trying to solve some crimes and help some people, only to find himself caught in the midst of a supernatural war that spans time and even reality a dozen books later. I love to see the scale of a book series grow larger as I read, but with Lockwood & Co. that doesn’t really happen, at least not on a comparable level. Three books later they’re still kids, managing the same sorts of happenings from their modest accommodations. Rather than the scope enlarging, the books merely deal with very large and important events that occur within these characters’ lives. Yes, they can affect the state of the country in some ways, but there’s no “level up” in the sense of what baddies they’re facing or anything like that.
When I’m reading Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Scott Lynch, you name it, I typically concern myself with the world. Worldbuilding is my passion, after all, so its only natural for me to find myself enthralled with all of the nations and cultures Sanderson touches on in The Stormlight Archive and fill in the gaps myself. But with Stroud books, there isn’t very much worldbuilding. Since it’s just a twist on our own world, there really isn’t much to learn, so I read those books for the character. These characters, rather than the lovable, insanely powerful idiot wizard Harry Dresden (written by Jim Butcher) or the emotionally detached, off-putting creepiness of John Cleaver (by Dan Wells), you get the innovative, clever, daring, yet clearly juvenile personalities of Lockwood and his friends. They each have fun characters, and even some of the annoying, more useless and minor characters fill a very important role in the series, so even their presence isn’t frustrating.