Edinburgh Nights #2: Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments – T.L. Huchu

Being a ghostalker never exactly brought in the big bucks and “certain shenanigans which I daren’t recall saw that business go kaput.” But now Ropa is seeing dollar signs. She’s just scored an apprenticeship at the General Discoveries Department with her mentor, Sir Callander. Fancy.

Only, before she even begins, her apprenticeship is downgraded to an unpaid internship. Dammit!

Ropa’s not one to sit around waiting for the money to find her. There’s some mysterious goings on at the appropriately named Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments, the clinic where Priya, Ropa’s friend, works. Max Wu, a student from the Edinburgh School, has an illness of unknown origin and Ropa’s particularly skill set is just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Snooping around’s my thing, and if the kid’s parents pay well, then that’s me sorted’ 

In between scoffing as many Jammie Dodgers as she can get her hands on, Ropa begins her investigation. It involves the Monks of the Misty Order and the One Above All, and takes her all over Edinburgh, from a school and a bank to a whole other realm. Ropa may not have a fancy magical education but she has street smarts, River (her vulpine companion) and a scarf called Cruickshank.

While she’s tough as nails on the outside, Ropa’s heart goes all mushy when she thinks about her family. 

Me, Gran and Izwi. That’s my real fortune, and I wouldn’t place it in any bank in the world, ‘cause I keep it right here in a vault in my heart. 

Come to think of it, this family makes me a bit mushy too. I also love Ropa’s friends: Priya, who has some brilliant moves, and Jomo, who works in the Library.

Now, you know this series had me at ‘library’. This one keeps getting better and better. The location is fantastic, the card system is unique and the books really want you to read them. 

‘I will meet you at the Library.’ 

I am enjoying getting to witness how magic works in Ropa’s world but it very much feels like I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. I’m looking forward to seeing how the new developments with Gran and Izwi unfold and want to spend more time with the Hamster Squad. Obviously I also need to learn more about the Library of the Dead.

Favourite no context quote

I don’t think anything in life quite prepares you for the experience of trying to load a stiff onto a tricycle hearse on a hot summer’s night in Edinburgh, that’s for sure. 

Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with a couple of scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor for the opportunity to read this book. Bring on book 3!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ropa Moyo’s ghostalking practice has tanked, desperate for money to pay bills and look after her family she reluctantly accepts a job to look into the history of a coma patient receiving treatment at the magical private hospital Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments. The patient is a teenage schoolboy called Max Wu, and healers at the hospital are baffled by the illness which has confounded medicine and magic.

Ropa’s investigation leads her to the Edinburgh Ordinary School for Boys, one of only the four registered schools for magic in the whole of Scotland (the oldest and only one that remains closed to female students).

But the headmaster there is hiding something and as more students succumb Ropa learns that a long-dormant and malevolent entity has once again taken hold in this world.

She sets off to track the current host for this spirit and try to stop it before other lives are endangered.

Edinburgh Nights #1: The Library of the Dead – T.L. Huchu

Fourteen year old Ropa lives with her Gran and younger sister, Izwi. She’s got green dreadlocks, black lipstick and a sizeable chip on her shoulder. She’s also a ghostalker.

Me personally, I find the whole haunting business a bit pathetic.

But a girl’s got to pay the bills, so Ropa delivers messages from ghosts to their loved ones. Things have gotten a bit complicated recently because a particular ghost refuses to play by the terms and conditions. Their son is missing and they can’t move on until they know he’s okay. The problem is, this ghost doesn’t have any money and Ropa isn’t in the business of handing out charity.

I had trouble connecting with Ropa when I first met her. She is both book and street smart, but her book smarts can appear at odds with the slang and crass language she uses at times. Life hasn’t been easy for Ropa and as a result she’s built a fairly impenetrable wall around her. She softens when she’s around her family and you get to see another side of her when she’s with her friends but in the beginning she came across as someone I didn’t think I’d be able to get to know.

‘Meh. Tough world, get with the program.’

This book has ghosts, magic and a mysterious library, which is a pretty happy trifecta in my eyes. I met plenty of ghosts and got a taste of the magic that exists in Ropa’s Edinburgh but the reality of this book diverged from my expectations at times.

I had hoped to spend a great deal more time in the library. Hopefully it will be given more page time as the series progresses. The mystery was more prominent than I’d expected but I got sucked into it quite quickly. Although my expectations didn’t entirely line up with reality, I ended up really enjoying this read (once I got used to Ropa’s abrasiveness).

There are some characters I took to immediately and others that I don’t feel I know well enough to be able to form a strong opinion about yet. I loved Gran and look forward to getting to know her more as the series progresses. She’s someone who brings warmth and wisdom.

‘It’s in the most trying times, when we ourselves have nothing, that we mustn’t forget there are higher virtues like compassion, kindness and solidarity. Doing something when it is hard, because it is the right thing to do, matters more than doing it when it’s easy.’

However, I didn’t get much of a sense of Izwi’s personality. I’m fairly certain Jomo will begin to feel like more than a means to an end in future books but so far he hasn’t made a huge impression on me. Making up for him was Priya, who’s fearless and fantastic. I can’t wait to hang out with her again.

Ropa’s world is quite dark and there’s hints about the “catastrophe” that shook things up, but I anticipate there is a lot more information to come. I wondered if pop culture no longer exists here as many of the references aren’t current, even now.

The mystery of this book is solved but there’s a lot more this world has to offer. I’m hoping future books will allow me to spend more time in the library, teach me more of its magic, introduce me to many more ghosts and give me a lot more Gran and Priya time.

Quote of the book:

‘I’m just getting to like you; don’t die stupidly on me now.’

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When ghosts talk, she will listen …

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and she now speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.

She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan …) as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets. And in the process, she discovers an occult library and some unexpected allies. Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?