Theodora Goss comes to the blog today with the second in The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, an historic, Victorian-era fantasy mystery featuring the women of classic detective literature and narrated by Kate Reading. Please read on for my review of
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Not having read the first in this series, but seriously intrigued in the author’s reworking of women, formerly simple plot devices and transforming them into the main characters of the story brought this book to my attention. Taking the not-so-famous females from their more ‘well known’ husbands and partners from classic Victorian era fiction, Mary Jekyll, Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Diana Hyde are soon off on another adventure, splitting their group in two on a quest to find and rescue the kidnapped Lucinda Van Helsing. As if that weren’t enough, each woman stands wholly on her own: determined and clever, using skills that often outstrip their male counterparts, with a ‘recap’ of each leg of the adventure leading to lovely conversations as they gather to recount and record their experiences. But, don’t be fooled, this story is as rich in description (perhaps overly so) as some of the most touted Victorian fiction, with a palpable, if not always present, sense that not one is taking themselves too seriously, even as the situation ad discoveries as the hunt for Lucinda gains steam. The sense that by ignoring the females so integral to the original books left them lacking in a sense of balance and perhaps even some intriguing moments, Goss seems to be righting those perceived wrongs with this collection of women and giving readers familiar with the classic stories a new voice to the perspective.
Lengthy at over 700 pages and 24+ hours, the natural ‘break points’ in the story that come from the narrative style, frequently broken by conversations and snippets that drop that 4th wall and allow readers into the story, with clever insets of actual historical events and people as the women are broken into 3 distinct groups – all working to discover the whereabouts of Lucinda and the reasons why she was taken. Truly a character-driven story, most of the action is fairly basic and not the focus. Yes, the story does bog down with detail often to the detriment of the forward motion, but again, this allows for several breaks for the listener / reader, with the ‘recap conversations’ allowing one to not lose their place. I’m intrigued by those who found the first book to have a bit more cohesiveness with the plot, and providing more backstory for each of the characters, something that I could have used a bit more of – they were so unique and cleverly presented. Overall, I enjoyed this story for it’s perspective and sense of ‘righting a wrong’ in that opportunity taken sort of way.
Narration for this story is provided by Kate Reading, who managed to provide significantly distinct voices, deliveries and tone for the multitude of characters encountered, and never confused any of them. It was apparent to this listener that she understood the characters and the intention of the story and kept the characters feeling ‘in the moment’ as they came to the forefront. With the dropping of the 4th wall, and the masses of information and tropes played without losing her grasp on the performance, I was suitably impressed and will be sure to check out more of her work. I would suggest, however, that you grab the first in this series and get some of the background that I feel like I missed here.
Stars: Overall 4 Narration 5 Story 4
Title: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Author: Theodora Goss
Series: The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #2
Genre: Comedic Elements, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction / Fantasy Elements, Mystery Elements, Suspense Elements, Victorian
Narrator: Kate Reading
Published by: Saga Press, Simon & Schuster Audio
Published on: 10 July, 2018
Source: Simon and Schuster Audio
Audio Length: 24 Hours: 27 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦ Google ♦Audible
In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.
Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.
But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?
Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.
A copy of this title was provided via Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.