Embassy Of The Dead: Hangman’s Crossing by Will Mabbitt

The Blurb On The Back:

Welcome to the Embassy of the Dead.

Leave your life at the door.  (Thanks).

Awarded an official position working for the Embassy of the Dead, Jake’s job is to protect souls in need.  But journeying deep into the mysterious world of ghosts, Jake overhears a plot to destroy the very fabric between the land of the living and the dead.

With a ghostly gang at his side Jake must do the impossible.  He has to be a hero.  His life – and the fate of EVERYONE ON EARTH – depends on it …

You can order Embassy Of The Dead: Hangman’s Crossing by Will Mabbitt from Amazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s almost a month after EMBASSY OF THE DEAD.  12-year-old Jake Green has been appointed an Undoer (someone who helps trapped ghosts to move onto the Afterworld) and Cora Sanderford (a ghost known as a Possessor whose spirit is contained in a silver trophy) is his assistant.  But Jake isn’t overly excited by his new job – he remembers how dangerous his last adventure was and how close he came to passing over himself – so even though he received a postcard from the Embassy summoning him to its premises almost a month ago, he hasn’t turned up in the hope that they’ve forgotten about him.

But the Embassy never forgets and they’ve got a problem on their hands: someone is bringing in artefacts from the Afterworld to the world of the living and one of their ghostly investigators has disappeared.  Every Undoer must report to duty, which delights Cora who is convinced that her position as a Sanderford means she’s destined to save the world, but Jake is distinctly nervous.  He has good reason to be.  There are still people intent on destroying the Earthly Plane and it will be up to Jake and Cora (with a little help from Zorro, the ghost fox who likes to hang around with them) to save the world …

The second in Will Mabbitt’s spooky fantasy series for readers aged 9+ (gorgeously illustrated by Chris Mould) is fast-paced, has a hero who remains easy to relate to and sets up an interesting scenario for the next book but it is fairly episodic and takes a while to get going while Cora has little to do and is two-dimensional.  I enjoyed it but it teeters towards being formulaic and the female characters don’t pop like the male ones do.

You don’t need to read the first book in order to follow this one as Mabbitt does a handy recap of events a number of times (too many times for me, but younger readers will probably appreciate it) and explains what an Undoer is and how his fantasy world works.  I really like Jake – I think it’s very easy to relate to his lack of enthusiasm for putting himself in danger and his desire to lead a normal, boring life with his best friend Sab and I completely empathised with his decision to just ignore the summons from the Embassy, not least because of the disdain that they have shared for him so far.  

However, while I understood Cora’s frustration with Jake’s decision I wished that more had been made of this conflict between them and the fact that as she’s dead, she doesn’t have the same attitude to risk as Jake does (which Jake touches on but I want to hear Cora explain it).  Instead, as written, she seems quite petulant about it and also a bit of a nag and to be honest, I didn’t feel that she really had a huge amount to do in this book and I thought she needed a bit more of a defined role.  I had a similar issue with Zorro the ghost fox who behaves a bit more like a dog than a fox and who again lacks a role.

The book did take a while to get going but when it does it’s fast paced with Mabbitt keeping the action going.  In fact at times I thought it was a little too fast-paced, especially in the Afterworld scenes where I kinda wished that there’d been some time to breathe and take stock of what the pair were experiencing.  However, there are times when the beats veer towards formula and I could see what’s coming – but I am coming at it as a grown-up and have seen the twists a number of times, obviously the target age group may find it fresher.

I love Chris Mould’s illustrations and wanted more of them as they help bring the text to life.  My favourites were of the elite group of Undoers and the Afterworld boatman.

The book ends with some interesting developments that hold a lot of promise for the third book – not least as Jake’s real life and ghostly job look like they’re going to interact a lot more but also Jake is keeping a secret that seems like it could have some serious ramifications.

All in all, I did enjoy this despite my concerns and I would check out the next books.  If you have a 9+ year old who likes spookier stories then there’s an excellent chance that they will love this.  

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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