The Spectral City by Leanna Renee Hieber

Genre: Fantasy
Secondary genre: historical mystery
Format read: hard copy
Series: The Spectral City vol 1
Positive rep: LGBTQIA, addiction recovery
Rating: planchet-3

New York City is changing. As the dawn of the 20th century draws nearer, government and police are being forced to change the way they work, utilizing new technology and old spirits.

Eve Denbury, daughter of Lord and Lady Denbury and a life-long New Yorker, has been blessed–or cursed–with her mother’s ability to see spirits. Except for Eve, it’s not just a feeling–the ghosts are all around her, drawn to her energy. It is through what they over hear and communicate to her that she becomes an integral part of the city’s police force, under the direction of governor Theodore Roosevelt himself.

Eve and her carefully selected team of female psychics are dedicated to giving a voice to the voiceless, be they the minorities, disenfranchised women and children, or the deceased of the city.

But almost immediately things start to go wrong for the “Ghost Precinct.” One of their ghosts mysteriously goes missing. Then threats from a powerful family bring Roosevelt to their offices for damage control. Their primary liaison to the regular police gets replaced without warning, and then a series of mysterious thefts spring up around the city, all tied to a missing little girl.

Young Eve will have to not just keep herself together, but her team, too, if she wants to solve the mysteries and save the life of New York’s most recent missing person.

I wanted to love this book so much. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages, since Leanna is a dear friend of mine. Unfortunately, it just didn’t hit the mark.

The story was good, but my main complaints lay with the pacing, which could be choppy at times. This could have been vastly improved if not for Eve’s inner monologues.

Leanna is dedicated to writing inclusive gaslamp fantasy, and I love the way she brings in other cultures and identities, making them feel natural in most of her work (as they should be). But Eve spent more time thinking about how she wanted to make her time inclusive, and why does racism exist, and why does sexism exist, all without really forming any solid answers. I just wanted a little less thought and a lot more action from her.

I also wanted more from her team members, who felt somewhat two dimensional. It was very hard to keep the broad cast of characters straight, even just remembering who was alive and who was a ghost.

I will continue reading the series, so hopefully these issues will be corrected in later volumes.


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