Series: GhostWriters #1
Published by DeathZone Books on April 15, 2017
Genres: Adult, Occult & Supernatural, Thrillers, Urban Fantasy
Sexual Content: nonconsensual sexual contact, past references to a teenage girl being raped and sodomized, mentions of suicide
Reviewed by: Rebecca
On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.
Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.
Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.
As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.
It takes far too long for CITY OF GHOSTS to get started. Plot and character development is pushed to the second half of the novel, leaving the first half aimless. The revealed backstories aren’t enough to humanize characters who have spent the entirety of the novel telling us how women are just the worst.
Jackson Stone is looking for ghost stories. He decides to spend a night alone in Hensu, an abandoned, flooded Chinese city. He ditches his tour guide, sets up camp and invites a shoeless, wet, Chinese girl to sit at his fire. It isn’t long before the girl decides that Jackson is the best person to tell her story, whether he wants to or not.
It’s hard to remember that Jackson is in his mid-twenties. He acts like a college bro and has no plan except ‘writing a book = millions’. Jackson is self-described as charismatic,which is surprising because he talks smack about almost everyone. Especially women. Throughout the book, Jackson drops knowledge bombs like: women only talk about cats, women overpack, or that women talk too much. The only two female characters spoken well of are his sister and his love interest, Kate.
Kate is a genuinely interesting character. She drives the plot, knows the answers, and pulls Jackson along. She’s funny, smart, and has a much better handle on ghosts. Are you surprised? Don’t worry, Jackson was too. Good thing she’s super hot, acts just like guy, and also doesn't get along with women. Kate’s backstory is incredibly problematic, veering too close to ‘sometimes people deserve to be bullied’ line of victim-blaming. She also explains a new, uncomfortable element to ghosts: that they will resort to rape and molestation to get attention.
These elements overshadow the plot entirely. It’s hard to focus on a ghost story when characters are only talking about how terrible women are. CITY OF GHOSTS is formed by misogyny. It drives the characters, it drives the plot, it’s validated every step of the way. No one learns from these opinions, if anything these opinions are supported. Setting the book in China keeps the main characters off-balance but it should have provided more tension as they raced through the country, stood out in crowds, and were hampered by language barriers. Instead the setting just highlighted the characters' prejudices. If you want a good ghost story, look elsewhere.Series Titles:
For better ghost stories, check out Fellside by M.R. Carey, Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James, or Bitter Spirits (Roaring Twenties #1) by Jenn Bennett