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European Travels for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss (book review)

GENRE: YA Sci-fi

LENGTH: 706 pages


PLOT

The Athena Club travels to Vienna and Budapest to rescue Lucinda Van Helsing, whose father has experimented on her, and expose him before the Société des Alchimites. This is the sequel to The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter.


CHARACTERS

The members of the Athena Club from the first book are all present as main characters here. There is Mary Jekyll, the de facto leader who is a tad bland and Mary's half-sister, Diana Hyde, who is the wild child but who I found a lot more fun and strangely endearing this time around. There's also Justine Frankenstein (who, yes, is a reanimated corpse) and Bianca Rappaccini (who is poisonous) who are both sweethearts. Finally there is Catherine Moreau who is a puma transformed into a human. She's like Mary if Mary had more fire (she's also my favorite character). If you hadn't guessed from their names they, alongside many side characters, are based on characters from classic sci-fi tales. If you're a big sci-fi nerd then this may draw you into the series, but you don't need to be familiar with the original stories to read these books (I'm certainly not).

There are a plethora of new characters as well as some reoccurring ones in this novel. Goss did a great job of writing each character as distinct enough that despite the sheer massive amount of them I never got them mixed up or forgot who they were. This is helped by the fact that for a large chunk of the novel the Athena Club is separated into two groups and so the side characters aren't all appearing on page at the same time which would undoubtedly be overwhelming. I also really liked the new characters' relationships with our main girls and in particular Mary. Many of the older female characters acted as mentor figures. Given the feminists themes of the series I loved seeing even more empowered female characters.


NARRATIVE STYLE/PACING

The novel is told from the third person perspective of the characters. The novel is written as though it is a work of nonfiction whose author is Catherine. This very much appeals to my nerdy writer heart. There are frequent fourth wall breaks in which the characters insert their own thoughts and opinions. These are sometimes chuckle worthy (especially the reoccurring instances of Catherine shilling out the first book to the reader). I really wish that Goss had refrained from spoiling later plot points in these little snippets though.

I had a couple of nitpicks I wanted to mention here. The first is that Justine is masquerading as a man for parts of the novel and during these sections Goss is constantly swapping the pronouns used to refer to her. This is needlessly confusing for the reader. The second is that Catherine and Beatrice travel with the circus with which Catherine used to work and they use pretty flimsy disguises. If they were worried about the Société then why travel with a group with which you have a known previous association and under stage names that tell them exactly who you are? This seems like an oversight on Goss and her editor's parts.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intimidated by the length of this novel. When choosing novels to read I typically cap the page length off at under 600. This novel is 76.5% longer than the first book in the series so I was quite worried it would be full of filler scenes that should have been cut (or even that the book would read like two books that should have been split). Really, though, I could only point out a couple of scenes that could have been cut and not taken away from the plot. The book doesn't feel as long as it actually is.


FINAL THOUGHTS

I like how the first and second book can be read as parts one and two of a series but also individually and still make sense. I'd argue it's helpful to read the first book before this one, but the narrative often references past events so you'd get a basic understanding either way. The adventures of this book are not a direct continuation to the previous one though the first book does set up this one. These books span across multiple genres: sci-fi, historical fiction, and even mystery, so if you're into any of those genres then I recommend the series!


FINAL RATING: 3.75⭐️


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