Rory (The Ghosts of Palladino, #1) - Ciye Cho Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction.

I really enjoyed the two other books I've read by Ciye Cho, so when I was approached to read and review this one I couldn't resist! Rory follows the title character as she discovers the secret world of Palladino, a land where ghosts train girls to be auctioned off to the Ruling Lords.

This may be a book about ghosts but it was like no other ghost story I've ever read! And I loved that about it. The book starts off in quite a dark place as we're introduced to Rory. We learn her mother is in a psychiatric unit because of the hallucinations she has. Only Rory knows they're read. The opening few chapters definitely had me gripped and there was a lot of suspense. I really loved seeing Rory's worries and fears about her mother.

Soon the story takes a huge twist and we land in Palladino, a heaven-like universe filled with ghosts and magic. This is where the book truly becomes something unique. I adored the world building because you get to see all this crazy, magical stuff and this beautiful landscape filled with castles and hot air balloons. It's very fantastical and whimsical and just carries you away! It felt very Alice in Wonderland-esque and Lewis Carroll's story is actually referenced several times. There was a great focus on dreams and imagination as well which I loved. If you like that kind of wonderful, imaginative setting for a book then I think you'll love Rory.

Rory as a character was very likable, and I loved her development through the book. She's landed in Palladino not by choice so when she gets there she's pretty feisty and I loved that! She has a sharp tongue and a great answer to everyone. It was interesting seeing her relationship with the other girls who have been brought to Palladino. Rory has had a very isolated life due to her mother home-schooling her with little interaction with others. Suddenly she finds herself surrounded by other girls her age and she's a bit of an outcast. I also like her relationship with the skine (a winged demon type creature) Manny and the talking cat Cookie (yes this book has talking cats!).

A lot of Rory's previous life is told through flashbacks which I thought was a really effective technique. I think there were some things just touched upon that I would like to know more about, hopefully in the next book, particularly Rory's neighbour Jai who is mentioned quite often but who you learn very little about. I'd also love to know more of Rory's mother's backstory.

The plot itself had several parts to it. I probably enjoyed the first half the most as Rory adjusts to life in Palladino and prepared for the "unveiling". Some of my favourite scenes were the lessons she's put through by the ghost mistresses where she has to learn to walk elegantly and make magical dust tea that stirs up your emotions. The second half becomes a lot more about the characters she meets there. I really enjoyed getting to know more about Martin, as he seemed to be a character with a lot of depth, and the relationship between him and Rory was fascinating to watch develop. It took a little while to get to the mystery that really drove that second half of the book but once you get there it was worth it, and there was a good sense that something bigger was going on.

I absolutely love Cho's writing which has the ability to suck you in and bring these magical places to life. Rory has a talent for decorating cakes and I can't tell you how many times I got hungry whilst reading about it! I could practically taste the icing. The writing really added to that atmosphere when it came to Palladino as well because the descriptions were so vivid.

This was a truly unique and enjoyable read and a universe I'm looking forward to get back to. The climax to the story was very exciting and left me dying to find out what happens. If you don't like ghost stories then you have to give this a try because it's a ghost story with a difference! And if you like your fantasy whimsical and a little bit mad then don't miss this one.

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