Review: The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Empty Grave by Jonathan StroudThe Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud
Narrator: Emily Bevan
Length: 12 hrs, 41 mins
Series: Lockwood & Co. #5
Published by Listening Library on September 12, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
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four-half-stars

After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest.

So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London's top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader.

What they discover will change everything.

But there's little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start - as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences.

With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of 'the problem' will finally be revealed.

Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. The revelations will send readers back to Book 1 to start the series all over again.

The Lockwood and Co. series has been one of my favorites since I began it several years ago with The Screaming Staircase. In preparation for the conclusion, I listened to all four books again, because I wanted to make sure that I had the best possible experience with The Empty Grave. Sure, it took a long time, but I regret not a thing. Lockwood and Co. is one of the strongest series, across five books, that I’ve read, and The Empty Grave is a stunning conclusion.

To a large degree, this review is going to be as much a series review as a review of The Empty Grave itself. All of the books in this series are excellent; the only slight hiccup is book two, which is a bit weaker in plot than all the rest of them. Then again, book two also has the worst narrator (there are different narrators in books one and two, with Emily Bevan narrating books three through five), so maybe that’s somewhat unfair. On my re-listen, though I still loved Miranda Raison’s work, I’ve come to appreciate Emily Bevan a good deal more. While I loved Miranda’s voices for the characters, I think Emily actually gives them more correct accents.

The reread was necessary, because it turned out I mostly only had strong memories of the plot in books three and four, so a lot of it was basically brand new for me. It’s pretty telling that I basically didn’t do anything but listen to these, even on a reread. They’re just sooooo gooooood. Also, I love revisiting my ship in the early phases and really noting the small ways it develops throughout. Another huge plus is that I found myself more tolerant of Lucy’s hatred of Holly this time around. While girl hate will never be my favorite, this response really does fit Lucy, who, frankly, hates people, with the exception of Lockwood and, somewhat less so, George; jealousy just exacerbates the problem.

An aspect of the series that’s truly remarkable, and which really hits its peak in The Empty Grave, is Lucy’s relationship with the skull. It’s really impressive that a character so overtly unlikable as Skull grows on the reader so much from The Whispering Skull to The Empty Grave. Actually, as a whole, I’d say it’s amazing how likable basically the whole cast is, given that they’re basically all crotchety and not remotely nice, aside from Holly and Lockwood. George is a sociopath and a slob, and still Lucy’s almost worse with people. By the final couple of books, even Kipps is a favorite. This is absolutely brilliant characterization on Stroud’s part; I love this gang super fiercely. The amount of feelings I had about a rude skull in a jar is testament to how phenomenal this series/book is.

The plot, as usual for this series, is complex and multi-faceted. There’s never just one thing going. Stroud interweaves various subplots, and he also hits all the emotional beats brilliantly. Seriously, the craft of this series is massively impressive. Miranda Fittes makes a creepy and daunting villain, and it’s also just beautiful how convincingly kind she was in the past. Elements of the plot were predictable, but in a good way, if that makes any sense whatsoever.

While I would have appreciated more time for my ship to really sail, I’m still really thrilled with it. Lucy and Lockwood kill me. The way Lockwood slowly lets his wall down and learns to care, and the way that Lucy is so completely boneheaded about feelings just MY HEART. View Spoiler » And Lucy and Holly finally becoming friends and understanding one another also just ruined me. View Spoiler » Plus, the fact that Stroud makes the side ship of George and View Spoiler » actually work is impressive.

My love for this series is huge, and I’ll be rereading it through the years for damn sure. If you’re into badass world building, intricate plotting, lovable grouches, and slow, realistic character development, you need this series in your life.

Favorite Quote:

“Looks?” the skull said. “Who cares about that? It’s superficial. Outward appearance doesn’t interest me at all. Why do you think I hang around with you?” It chuckled. “Insult aside, that’s just one way in which I’m superior to every one of you, except for Cubbins.”

I blinked. “What? Why? What’s George got to do with anything?”

“What a person looks like doesn’t bother him much, or hadn’t you noticed?”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

7 responses to “Review: The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud”

  1. Wow this is such a glowing review!! I rarely hear people talk about this series; I think I owned the first book once upon a time but never got further than a few chapters. I really liked what I read though so clearly I need to jump on this. A strong series with a good conclusion that you want to reread multiple times is a high compliment indeed. I skimmed your review just because I didn’t want to read too many spoilers but it sounds exciting and I love when you can see a ship develop over time. Thanks for sharing this excellent review! You’ve convinced me 🙂
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    • Christina Franke says:

      If you do audiobooks, they’re really good on audio (minus book two and in spite of the narrator changes). I haven’t read the print, so I’m not sure how they would go. The plot is awesome. The characters might take some time, because most of them are a bit emotionally-challenged. :-p

  2. Thelma says:

    I need to catch up on this serie so much! Jonathan Stroud wrote one of my favorite trilogies of all of time and child me would be so disapointed if she knew I didn’t keep up with Lockwood & co. Thanks for putting this back on my radar! It’s great to have you back on the blog 🙂
    (Speaking of favorite series : I saw you’re reading Magic Bites and I hope you’ll enjoy it despite its flaws ^^ can’t wait to know what you think of it!)

    • Christina Franke says:

      I never read the Bartimaeus books, but a friend told me recently they have an excellent ship too, so I’m prioritizing that. Still might take me a while, lol, but hopefully sooner.

      Magic Bites was super fun! I’d heard it was problematic, so I was prepared to hate at least the first couple; there were a few things that she probably would do different now, but I really liked it, as you saw on Twitter.

      • Thelma says:

        Now that I think about it the Bartimaeus books have a nice ship indeed. Your friend has good tastes ^^ I’ve always been more obsessed with Bartimaeus himself; but I’ve dicovered those books as a child so I had different priorities.
        Same with Magic Bites actually : I can totally see how some things could’ve been handled better. But when I was younger I just loved it because I’d never read anything like it before. Anyway, I’m glad you liked it and I’ll stop bothering you about it ^^

        • Christina Franke says:

          I’ve always been a little shipper, even as a kid, though I obviously didn’t think in those terms (or realize it all until much later). But my favorite things basically always had romance, and my favorite part was usually the romance. For example, Now & Then, which I LOVED as a wee child; my favorite scene was the kiss haha.

          It’ll be a while until the Magic Bites review posts bc I’m going to review it with book 2 (and maybe 3) and I don’t have them yet. :'(

          • Thelma says:

            I totally get you. I love romance too. I know people tend to look down on it but I adore it. And I think it’s actually pretty impressive to create a relationship that get people so involved. But another thing I really love is humour and that can sometimes distract me from the romance (except if it’s a snarky romance, then I’m all set and very happy).
            I’m already so happy to know that those reviews are coming 🙂 I hope the sequels won’t let you down!

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