Tunnel of Bones, the second book in Victoria Schwab’s middle-grade City of Ghosts series, takes Cassidy Blake to Paris, where her parents are filming a television show about ghost stories in Europe. Unbeknownst to her mom and dad, Cassidy herself has been a traveler between the real world and the ghostly realm since a near-drowning experience. A ghost named Jacob rescued her and is now her best friend. He’s come along to Paris, too.
Cass can sense the ghosts as soon as their train pulls into the city, but it’s not until they go into the catacombs that she is overwhelmed — and no wonder. The famous Paris catacombs contain thousands of corpses, moved from various graveyards in the city to make room for growth. Obviously, there are going to be some unsettled spirits there. But there’s one in particular who follows the family out of the catacombs. He’s a poltergeist, and as he grows stronger he poses a threat not only to Cass and her parents, but to the entire city of Paris. He doesn’t know he’s a spirit, so Cass must first identify him before she can send him on.
Tunnel of Bones is an intriguing ghost story, but Schwab, a Nashville native, is also adept at character development, reminding readers that ghosts were once people and there is often a tragic reason for their failure to cross over at death. Even while he’s creating havoc, it’s easy to feel sorry for the poltergeist, once just a little boy who got lost in the catacombs and died there. And as the spirit grows more powerful, it’s hard for Cass to ignore the fact that Jacob is also growing stronger. She remembers the warning she received back in Edinburgh — the setting of the first book in the series — from her friend Lara: Ghosts are not supposed to stay in the land of the living.
Speaking of Lara, she plays a role in this novel as well, through video chat and text, giving advice, being insulting, and arguing with Jacob:
“Poltergeists start with little things, acts of mischief, but eventually they turn to menace and then mayhem. Violence. They don’t have any qualms about hurting people, killing them. And the more trouble a poltergeist causes the more powerful they get.” She looks to Jacob, and then back to me, her next words pointed. “Spirits this strong have no place in our world, Cassidy. Every minute they’re loose, they cause damage to the balance, and the Veil.”
Tunnel of Bones is a worthy follow-up to the first book, City of Ghosts, with the same satisfying mixture of humor, thrills, and sympathy. Readers who come for the ghosts will not be disappointed, and neither will those who return to the series for the friendship between girl and ghost, hoping that this unlikely pair will beat the odds.
Faye Jones, dean of learning resources at Nashville State Community College, writes the Jolly Librarian blog for the college’s Mayfield Library. She earned her doctorate in 19th century literature at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
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