In Review: Tunnel of Bones

I couldn't put this down once I began. Highest possible recommendation.

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab

Published by Scholastic on September 3, 2019. Jacketed hardcover of 304 pages at $17.99. Also available as an eBook and Digital Audiobook. Intended for ages 8 – 12, grades 3 – 7. 

Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.

The cover: The top of the book has the author’s name in white, sitting on a blood red sky. Immediate below is Paris in silhouette, with the Eiffel Tower in the middle. The ground for the city is rounded because it creates the shape of a tunnel below. Within this tunnel is a bright white light behind Cassidy and a black cat. The tunnel around them is partially illuminated, revealing that the walls and ceiling are composed of human skulls. The title of the book is at the bottom. This is a creepy cover because of the skull chamber. This is great! The jacket design is by Baily Crawford, the Jack photos are copyright Cat: Anna Hoychuk/Shuttershock; Girl: Jovana Rikalo/Stocksy United and Sun Ok/Shuttershock. Overall grade: A+ 

The premise: From the back cover, “Trouble is haunting Cassidy Blake — even more than usual. She (plus her ghost best friend, Jacob, of course) are in Paris, where Cass’s parents are filming their TV show about the world’s most haunted cities. Sure, it’s fun eating croissants and seeing the Eiffel Tower, but there’s ghostly danger lurking beneath Paris in the creepy underground Catacombs. When Cass accidentally awakens a frighteningly strong spirit, she must rely on her still-developing skills as a ghost hunter — and turn to friends, both old and new, to help her unravel the mystery. And if Cass fails, the force she’s unleashed could haunt the city forever.” I really enjoyed the first book City of Bones and I wanted to see more exploits involving Cassidy and her family and Jacob, so I’m ready to dive in. Overall grade: A

The characters: Cassidy Blake is a fantastic character. She’s curious, she wants to do what’s right, and she’s got guts. I also like that she doesn’t have the answer to everything, relying on her family and friends to help her get things done. This makes her a believable character. Her relationship with Jacob is fantastic and every time they speak or communicate through thoughts was fantastic. After the events of City of Ghosts she knows she has the ability to move ghosts on and is comfortable in doing so, though this book has her encountering a spirit that doesn’t follow the rules. Jacob still provides a lot of laughs with his comments only Cass can hear, as well as create a lot of tension speaking for the reader with dialogue along the lines of “Do we have to go in there?” There’s a particularly touching moment where Jacob reveals something to Cass and it’s a heartbreaker. I just love Jacob. Cassidy’s parents are continuing their whirlwind tour of the world to film haunted areas for their television show. They appear to be catching on that there’s more to Cassidy than they think, though they don’t acknowledge it. Lara Jayne Chowdhury, a fellow ghost hunter, communicates through texts and video calls with Cass to help her with her poltergeist problem. She’s the Hermione Granger of the book, but appears infrequently enough to not solve all of Cass’s troubles. Her banter with Jacob remains a highlight. Though there are several ghosts in this book, a pesky poltergeist is the primary foe. It moves quickly and it can move things. Starting little, it gets to the point where it appears it’s trying to kill Cass and her parents. The reveal of who and why this spirit is creating havoc is fantastic. There is also a new character, younger than Cass, that helps the heroine, but I won’t spoil any element of her, except to say I love her. Every one of these characters is a delight. Overall grade: A+ 

The settings: Modern day Paris is the city the Blakes are in searching for ghosts. The sites they journey to include the Catacombs, the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Effiel Tower, the Point-Marie Bridge, and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, and after reading this book I want to go even more. The site that contains the greatest troubles are the Catacombs. They are describe in a creepy cool fashion that pulled me in and was utterly engrossing. This book was written before the recent tragedy at Notre-Dame, so the brief scene there was bittersweet. There’s also several moments behind the Veil, the dimension where ghosts can be touched by Cass and they can be moved on. All of these scenes are thrilling and just scary enough to cause tension in younger readers. Overall grade: A+ 

The action: Anytime the poltergeist is active I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. I enjoyed how the threat of this spirit grew with each appearance, causing Cass and Jacob work harder to get it stopped. Even when the poltergeist isn’t present, any ghost causes consternation for Cass and fear in Jacob. This is a page turner. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: The poltergeist is stopped, but not how the reader initially suspected. It was sad and perfect. I also liked that Cassidy has a new ally by the end of this tale. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I couldn’t put this down once I began. I am in love with the characters, am smitten with the descriptions of Paris, and delighted in every apparition. This a joy to read for the relationship between Cassidy and Jacob and Cass’s desire to do what’s right. I eagerly await the next adventure for these characters. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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