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


The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss // VBC ReviewThe Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter
Theodora Goss
Published: June 20, 2017 (Saga Press)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

The recent death of her mother, after the death of her father fourteen year earlier, leaves Mary Jekyll in dire straits. With little money remaining and nothing new coming in, Mary must find a way to support herself. But as a series of unsolved, gruesome murders plagues the streets of London, Mary begins to believe her father’s former friend Edward Hyde might be back. Looking to cash in on a reward for the apprehension of Hyde, piecing the clues together, with the help of one famous detective and his Doctor friend, all roads lead to the discovery of Diana Hyde.

Diana’s discovery unveils a mysterious secret society of scientists whose former experiments are all coming out of the woodwork. Together with Catherine Moreau, Beatrice Rappaccini, and Justine Frankenstein, Mary will uncover the mystery surrounding their pasts and the society and hopefully stop a murderer before his next kill.

I feel like it’s a trend right now to kind of go back to the classics. I like Theodora Goss’s take on this trend, however, in how she expands upon the classics. It was a very interesting choice to take the “next generation” of monsters as the case may be and make them the heroines of our story.

I also liked the way in which the story is told. That is, once I got used to it. Strange Case is set up as being told to readers by the girls themselves after the fact, complete with interjections from said girls at various intervals throughout the narrative—which prove to be quite hilarious at times. They’re basically writing down their story for publication. I really felt the distinct voices of each of our main characters.

The characterization of Sherlock Holmes proved to be rather interesting as well. His appearance here just felt off, but then I have to think it’s because of how he’s viewed by our “narrators/writers.” Especially considering that Holmes’ own adventures are conveyed to the masses by Dr. Watson, therefore his characterization is subjected there by Watson himself. I like the idea of perspective that this represents.

Despite Strange Case being primarily Mary’s story, I really enjoyed Beatrice Rappaccini the most. Probably because she’s the character whose classical story I’m completely unfamiliar. I’d say with names like, Jekyll, Hyde, Moreau, and Frankenstein it’s pretty easy to deduce things about the other characters. For those like me: Rappaccini’s Daughter is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorn about a young woman who, working with her father’s poisonous plants, has become poisonous herself and, sadly, has the ability to kill with a single touch. I think out of the five, she definitely has some of the more difficult experiences, at least right now.

The mystery dealing with the unsolved murders is more of a secondary role to that of the mystery surround the girls’ lives and the society that bred them, and we only crack the surface of that mystery by the end. There are various references to other adventures our group of “monsters” get into throughout the narrative. I hope that they’ll get a chance to share them with us some time.

Sexual content: references to sex

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