Reading Level: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Size: 288 pages
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Of Monsters and Madness series
Source: eGalley from NetGalley
Rating: 3/5 stars
I got an eGalley of this book to review through NetGalley. I was eager to read this story because it is desribed as a gothic retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s life/stories. While it wasn’t a bad story, it definitely didn’t have a ton to do with Edgar Allen Poe. He is one of the main characters in the story, but he didn’t have a ton of personality. This was more of a retelling of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde mixed with The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Annabel Lee has lived most of her life in a far off middle eastern country with missionaries. Then her and her mother are called home to live with her father in Philadelphia, her mother is very sick and doesn’t end up surviving long enough to make the journey. Annabel Lee makes the journey on her own and arrives to find a bleak and damp climate and a father who obviously doesn’t want her there. To add to her dismay, there are a rash of grisly murders sweeping through Philadelphia. Annabel’s only solace is her kind grandfather and her father’s assistants. Her father has two assistants; the cheerful and teasing day assistant Allen and the scary and brooding night assistant Edgar. Annabel has to unravel the mysteries surrounding her father’s household before something horrible befalls her.
You can’t help but compare this book to The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. The darkness and themes of medical experiments and madness are definitely similar. Even the characters in this story are less complex, pale versions of the characters from The Madman’s Daughter. I actually liked The Madman’s Daughter quite a bit more than this novel.
The characters are pretty stereotypical. Annabel is a beautiful girl with an interest in medicine who has some dark secrets (again very similar to Juliet in the Madman’s Daughter). Her father is of the mad scientist type and keeps a lot of secrets from her. There is a love triangle, kind of, between her and Allen and Edgar Poe. Edgar and Allen are both plagued by mental illness and have dark secrets of their own (very similar to Edward in the Madman’s Daughter).
There are little blips of poetry and stories from Edgar Allen Poe throughout. However I felt the story was only very very loosely related to him and his history.
If you look at this as a general gothic YA story it is an okay book. If you look at it as some retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s life, it is a horrible story. The story was engaging enough, but the characters don’t have a lot of depth in them. I also thought it was lacking in description; the surroundings don’t really come alive and are hard to picture. The book in general just felt kind of bland, like something was missing.
This is an incredibly quick read and not a lot is resolved by the end of the book. This book mainly just sets up things for the reader. There are very obviously going to be additional books in this series. I found the story vaguely entertaining but just felt like something was missing.
Overall an okay read but somewhat disappointing. If you are into dark gothic retellings of classic literature I would definitely recommend The Madman’s Daughter trilogy or The Iron Codex by Caitlin Kittredge over this book. I personally won’t be reading anymore books in this series.