Category Archives: Review

Review: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

This is ridiculous amounts of fun! If you like The Invisible Library, Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, Phil & Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius series, or any of the Sherlock Holmes adaptions… you’ll love this.

The story starts with Mary Jekyll having to lay off the servants: her mother having just died, the money has run out, and she’s not sure what to do next… until she gets an intriguing message about money being paid to a charitable fund, and discovers that she has a sister whose surname is Hyde…

And that’s just the start. Mary and Diana start collecting allies – and friends. The Poisonous Woman, The Puma Turned Human, and the Giantess – humans created by scientists trying to push the boundaries of knowledge, and possibly working for a mysterious society. But pushing the boundaries of knowledge can lead to people getting hurt – and creations that cause harm. Aided by Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, the Athena Club – as they name themselves – are on the trail of those who don’t consider the human cost of their experiments…

The book is a lot of fun; the interactions between the members are easy and amusing, and I love the little asides in the text as they tell the stories, each interjecting some detail or argument. It’s a wonderful piece of character building that adds to the story, and is great fun as you read more and are introduced to the characters! I also loved the literary details that get tugged in. The story is fast-paced, rattling onwards – it never takes itself too seriously, and it’s an action-filled romp with some seriously kick-ass – and thoughtful – heroines who display a wonderful range of character and a heart-warming rapport.

The series continues with European Travel For The Monstrous Gentlewoman, which sees the Athena Club tracking down van Helsing’s daughter and meeting some old friends… as well as some old – and new – enemies!

Review: Murder on Millionaire’s Row

Murder on Millionaire’s Row by Erin Lindsey

Rose Gallagher might dream of bigger things, but she’s content enough with her life as a housemaid. After all, it’s not every girl from Five Points who gets to spend her days in a posh Fifth Avenue brownstone, even if only to sweep its floors. But all that changes on the day her boss, Mr. Thomas Wiltshire, disappears. Rose is certain Mr. Wiltshire is in trouble, but the police treat his disappearance as nothing more than the whims of a rich young man behaving badly. Meanwhile, the friend who reported him missing is suspiciously unhelpful. With nowhere left to turn, Rose takes it upon herself to find her handsome young employer.

The investigation takes her from the marble palaces of Fifth Avenue to the sordid streets of Five Points. When a ghostly apparition accosts her on the street, Rose begins to realize that the world around her isn’t at all as it seems—and her place in it is about to change forever.

Put it this way; I’ve got the second book on pre-order…

It’s a fun, period-piece romp with a very readable central character, and some fun situations and scenarios! The magic slides in fairly slowly, so it doesn’t feel like a slap in the face; we learn along with Rose, and definitely appreciate her worries and problems with it. The antagonists are nicely done, as is the plot, which is complex enough to stay interesting but simple enough that I didn’t have to focus too hard!

The only character that I felt was a little vague was actually Mr Wiltshire; but then I’m not entirely sure what I did expect, as Rose goes from having a crush on him to being a partner in crime, as it were. I liked the worldbuilding, even though I don’t really know New York at all – there was a helpful little map at the start, and everywhere was nicely sketched out. I liked the historical details as well, which were woven nicely into the plot.

Overall: Miss Marple if she was twenty-something, in New York and had added magic – a light, easy and fun read!


Review: The Court of Broken Knives

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith-Spark

They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust.

In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion – and only one man can see it.

Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him – beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.

This has taken me so long!! Partly because I got the hardback and it meant I couldn’t really carry it anywhere, partly because I had a ridiculous book-stack, and partly because…well, it’s grimdark, which is not my favourite genre.

The story itself is interesting and tangled, but easy to read; it switches between the soldiers in the desert (who include Marith) and various players in Sorlost… and then when the soldiers arrive, things get political. And bloody.

And there’s dragons.

And more blood.

Basically, everything goes wrong for everyone. (It is grimdark.)

The thing I liked about The Court of Broken Knives was the characters; addiction and innocence are shown in the same sentence. Lust and greed are tangled with hope. The situations are horrible (and mostly of the characters’ own making) but how they deal with them shows off the worst and the best of human nature.

The plot is nicely dramatic; blood, drama, politics… Marith realises he can’t hide who he is, and I love Thalia’s arc from Temple Priestess to…well, no spoilers, go read. The politics of Sorlost are brilliant too, with a coup and the realisation that maybe the result of that coup hasn’t actually made anything better at all.

A very good read; engaging and interesting, with a tangled plot and interesting characters, and worth reading if you’re into the genre.

Review: This Is How You Lose The Time War

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

One of the problems of working for a publisher is that I get to read books about, oooh, a year – or more! – before everyone else. This is one of the ones I read, and I couldn’t talk about it until it was officially a bit more Announced… and now it is!

The sort-of-downside is that we’re not publishing it for various reasons, but! That means that I can officially squeak about it being AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and OHMYGOODNESS BUY THIS BOOK without looking at all partisan.

So I am going to tell you that it is AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and OHMYGOODNESS BUY THIS BOOK.

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

I adore the lyricism of the language and the poetry of the letters; I adore the twist in the tale, and the steps they take to get there; I adore all the scenarios of this time war, the knots and whorls and the locations of assignments, and the tiny, weird things that make such a difference downstream; I adore the rapid-fire action and the slow build of the romance; and it’s just…

Put it this way, I’m buying myself a copy and buying another one for Otter because they will love the language, and then handing my copy round my entire family and probably half my friends and telling them all to GO BUY ONE.

It’s beautiful, haunting, clever, enthralling and stunning; I love it, and it’s a wonderful story. Get this.

Review: The Girl Who Drank The Moon

The Girl Who Drank The Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is in fact a good witch who shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. As Luna’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her magic begins to emerge – with dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Deadly birds with uncertain intentions flock nearby. A volcano, quiet for centuries, rumbles just beneath the earth’s surface. And the woman with the Tiger’s heart is on the prowl . . .

Sweet, complex and gentle, with some savage undertones!

I admit to feeling a bit frustrated by this book. It’s billed as a children’s story, and it is; the harder themes (loss of a parent/child, loyalty, coming into your self & powers, standing up to authority and wrong) are all needed and all done very well. However, I found myself wishing the book was written in a more adult style; wishing that we could have more depth on many of the characters and their situation, and reading the same book but in a way that didn’t make me feel I needed a ten-year-old sitting next to me to read to. Which, I admit, sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book – I did! – and that the writing style wasn’t a good read – and it was! – but…


A good book. An enjoyable book. One that brings up needed themes and has some suitably horrible villains and some wonderful characters and some interesting situations, scenarios and morals. It’s delightful and fun and interesting. But it’s a book that actually, I felt I wasn’t the right person – or the right age – to be reading.