I follow a lot of book podcasts and book-tubers and book blogs, because, well, I really like books, and last year, this book was featured on nearly all of them, and they had only good things to say about this book. Then, Sword and Laser was reading this book for their book club, and I listen to their podcasts regularly, but me being me, I was a few weeks behind on the episodes given the number of podcasts I actually listen to, so I got to it only when their wrap up episode was fast approaching; I really wanted to read it for their book club. Either way, I did read it – last October or November- and this was a wholly unnecessary deviation to tell a completely unimportant story of me and this book. Well, actually, I listened to the audiobook, and recently re-read it before the release of the second book – “European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewomen.“
Okay, anyway, back to the book.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss begins with the death of Mary Jekyll’s mother. She death has lest Mary and their household at 11 Park Terrace, with nearly no funds. Mary Jekyll is the daughter of Dr. Henry Jekyll – the star of the gothic novella by Stevenson. She also discovers that her mother has been paying some amount, regularly, in the name of Hyde, whom she thinks was her father’s associates.
Since there is no more money in her bank, she must find some way to earn. She decides to provide the information about Mr. Hyde that she just discovered in exchange for a reward. Becuase, you see, he is wanted for murder, and the reward is still up for grabs.
She turns to Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, and by asking them to help her investigate he encounters Diana Hyde, his daughter, who, as it turns out, is his sister, because Hyde was Jekyll himself. He was part of a secret society of scientists – Societe des Alchimistes or the Alchemical Society and was experimenting upon himself. She finds the mysterious affair of Hyde and the current Whitechapel Murders are somehow linked and get involved in both the cases.
While investigating Hyde and this society, Mary and Diana come across Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein and Beatrice Rapuccini – all of them are the daughters of the members of this Alchemical Society and experiments of their fathers. They come together to figure out the mystery of this alchemical society and try to bring it down and to save others like them. As a team, they manage to help Holmes and Watson solve the Whitechapel murders.
I loved this book so much – both as an audiobook and reading it physically. The audiobook was narrated by Kate Reading, one of my favourite audiobook narrators. Her accents were spot on and she brings the characters to life; it was magical listening to her narration.
Not having read the book before listening to it, I was, at first, annoyed by the interruptions that appear within the book by all the characters. The main story is one thing, but the characters chime in with their inputs and opinions about what is happening in the story. I didn’t understand what was happening at first, but somewhere along the road, I got the hang of it and what was happening.
First, I found them annoying, but later I grew to appreciate them because it utilises one of my favourite theatrical tropes: Dramatic Irony – where the audience knows what is happening but the characters don’t.
It is very interesting here is that the medium through which we know of future events is the characters themselves talking to us, the reader, from a point in time that is far in the future. But the main plot characters, that is them in the narrative timeline of the book are just experiencing it or will experience it soon, while we know some of these outcomes already through these asides, if you will.
Besides that, I love the pacing of the novel – fast, action-packed. Once you start, you’ll find it hard to put it down. It is just so interesting and engaging. Theodora Goss’s prose flows so well, I absolutely loved her writing style. To me, she captures that style of writing.
The best part about this novel is the characters – I cannot get enough of them. Mary may be prim and proper, but she’s smart as hell; Catherine is fierce and a badass; Justine may be the strongest, but she is also the sweetest; Beatrice is funny, charming and smart; and Diana, she’s such a brat and reminds me of a cartoon character and her banter with the other is pure joy. All of them are super smart, really. Not in the same fields, but they have their places and times and they shine. I love how Theodora Goss has integrated so many gothic characters into this novel so seamlessly and created such a wonderful and rich universe.
There isn’t, to me, one dull moment in this book. I absolutely loved it and can’t wait to get started on the second