In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.
Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.
But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?
Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.
This one was a lot of fun and it was great to be back with the gang again. This is one big mystery intertwined with several other mysteries and it includes a couple of very good action scenes and a whole lot of adventure. And quite a lot of kidnapping. I hope I’m not spoiling anything by noting this one involves vampires. If you know the name ‘Van Helsing’ then you should have already been aware of the possibility. That being said, the reason I’m mentioning it is because I have a certain weakness for stories involving vampires. As soon as I saw what was on the horizon, I was boarding the train for this adventure. Gimmie those sweet, sweet vamps–choo choo!
The story moved pretty fast despite it being such a long novel. Having the group split up and focusing on the different stories helped a lot with the pacing, especially when much of it was action and adventure oriented. You would think that when being introduced to new characters and learning their stories (and this happened quite a few times), this process would slow the pace down as it did sometimes in the first book, but the backstories were pretty engaging this time around and I found myself actually being interested in how these characters came to be where they are at present. I also think it helped that these new characters, while intriguing, were not expected to become part of the gang. The Athena Club, while new, is still established–everyone else are sort of outsiders, even if they are friends. They’ll never really have the same bond as the women of the club.
There were a few issues I had with it, but nothing major. First off, it is a very long book. It’s fast paced because of all the stuff going on in it, but I do feel like it still would felt better as a slightly shorter novel. There were so many descriptions of things, which were great, but I think some of these could have been trimmed down. I admit to having skim read through some of that so it didn’t bother me as much as it could have. I do also think some of the reveals were a little convenient. I am all for tying things together, but it was a tad excessive here, especially near the end. Still, the story is very aware of itself, even in this, and remarks are made to lamp-shade this by one of the characters. The thing is, I don’t know if lamp-shading always works. Just because you point out something you did and even mock it a bit, doesn’t make it automatically work within the story as a whole. It still has to make sense. I just felt like certain things being made to fit together didn’t feel organic to me. Even so, this didn’t take away much from the story in the grand scheme of things and is more of a nit-pick of mine than anything.
One of the things I look for most in books is the character arc, or in this case arcs. I like to see growth. And over the course of this book we do see some of that, but it’s very gradual. For the most part our characters are set in who they are, and their traits are constantly remarked upon by the others. ‘Oh, but you’re the dependable one’ or ‘You’re the slightly unhinged one’ etc. Like I said, I don’t think the character growth isn’t there, I just think it’s a very slow thing. And most of it is done through watching how the characters interact with others, both outside of their group and within it. Mary is very conscious of her own personality traits and even has some doubts as to whether her behavior has even been ‘normal’. It’s good now and then to see her lose a little restraint, but it would be great to see her lose a lot more. I hope we get to see that in the third book. Still, all of the characters here played to their strengths and their weaknesses, which was something I enjoyed a lot. Showing them both at their best and their most vulnerable really does help to show that gradual growth along the way.
Overall, this was a really fun read. If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this follow up as well. There’s a LOT going on in this book–plot-wise there are a ton of different plot points intersecting, you have a bunch of new characters introduced on top of an already large cast we need to keep up with, and then the whole style in which its written with the 4th wall being broken constantly. And yet, somehow it all manages to work. I enjoyed this a lot, and am really looking forward to the third book. 4/5 stars.