Ghostcloud was offered by Netgalley for review just as I was developing an idea for a new book. I thought I’d better do some research on all the other books involving human children seeing ghosts. And anyway, it’s Halloween weekend! Time for a ghost story!
by Michael Mann
Twelve-year-old Luke Smith-Sharma shovels coal under a half-bombed, blackened power station. With his best friend Ravi he keeps his head down, hoping to one day earn his freedom and return to his family, while avoiding the wrath of the evil Tabatha Margate. When he tries to help new girl Jess, Luke is punished and sent to clean the sewers of the haunted East Wing, a place from which few return.
Whilst serving his punishment, Luke realises he can see things others can’t in the power station: ghostly things. He befriends a ghost-girl called Alma, who can ride clouds through the night sky and bend their shape to her will.
But when Luke discovers the terrible truth of why Tabatha Margate is kidnapping children and forcing them to work in the power station, Alma agrees to help him and his friends escape. Will Alma convince the ghost council to help their cause? And can Luke find his voice, while trying to find a way home? [goodreads]
Ghostcloud has a lovely premise to it. The reader gets a surprise to find the hero shovelling coal in the bottom of a dystopian Battersea Power Station at the start of the book. Dickensian with a futuristic note. And right from the start I was suspicious of the Golden Tickets awarded for the ‘best’ kids of the week. After twitching a few times at future London’s ruins that would not have existed in the past, I settled into going with the flow of an alternative world.
As with many books I’ve read this year, I found it enjoyable, but easy to put down. I even left it for a while and came back to it. It’s easy to pick up and the characters stay with you. That’s very good, if even my overworked brain is remembering them! Like many of those others, when I got back to it a third time (before 50%), I couldn’t put it down and read straight through to the exciting finish.
This is a really well imagined world, even if Tabitha Margate does tend towards the Cruella DeVille. I’ve been having trouble with my villain tending towards Darth Vader, and it’s hard to pull them back, sometimes. Michael Mann brings forward some truly innovate ghosts and ghost mechanisms, some that even Neil Gaiman would be proud of, I’m sure.
All in all, Ghostcloud is a thoroughly enjoyable book, a worthy first publication from the author. I look forward to seeing what Michael Mann comes up with in the future.