Embassy of the Dead, by Will Mabbitt

If you are a fan of middle grade fantasy, and are looking for a very nicely engrossing book, Embassy of the Dead, by Will Mabbitt, has just been released in the US (Walker Books, Sept. 8 2020) and is an excellent choice!  

Jake is an ordinary kid, hurrying home from school late one afternoon, when his life is upended.  A spooky stranger in a dark alley expects Jake to sign for a delivery.  Taken aback, and understandably consternated, he does.  The stranger, Stiffkey, murmuring about the trouble that happens when the living meet the dead, hands over a small box.  And then disapperates, leaving only a little pile of dirt behind. The box remains in Jake's hands.

That night he opens it, and finds inside a severed finger.  That night Stiffkey, having realized he made a mistake, returns to reclaim the box.  But Jake, having unwittingly made the fatal transgression of opening it, is in big trouble.   A Grim Reaper has been dispatched to drag him to the Eternal Void.   

Stiffkey, feeling (rightly so) somewhat responsible, decides to help Jake out.  There's a clause in the laws enforced by the Embassy of the Dead that could save him....if instead of being just an ordinary human child, he's someone who can release ghosts so they can move on, opening the box is no longer punishable with the eternal void.  And Jake, who can see and speak to ghosts, could potentially manage this....Stiffkey has an old friend who knows of a few ghosts who need unsticking, and so they set off, with the grim reaper not far behind.  But then they find that they are caught up in a bigger problem, involving dark, ghostly magic that could upend the balance between the living and the dead....

It's plenty spooky, but it's also a warm and friendly sort of story, with memorable characters.  I loved the hockey-stick-wielding school girl ghost (one of Jake's unsticking candidates), and there's a very sweet ghost fox (ghosts foxes add lots to most books!). Since it's middle grade, there's never any real doubt that Jake will survive, but the danger is still captivating.  There are some poignant moments adding piquancy to the story line, which, though robust, is not over-burdened by Too Much stuff happening.  And since I feel that I am starting to write a perfume review (though there are no hints of citrus in the story)  because of having a tired and addled brain (as is the case of so many of us these days), I will stop now.

Short answer--I really enjoyed it, and lots and lots of ten year olds who like ghost fantasy will too!  

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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