European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #2)

By Theodora Goss

Rating: 4 stars

In the second of the Athena Club’s intrepid adventures, they receive a message from a Miss Van Helsing asking for help as her father, a member of the Society of Alchemists, has been experimenting on her and her mother.

I don’t think this book was quite as engaging as The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. It’s a big book and I don’t think it was as tight as its predecessor. Some scenes could have been cut with minimal effort and, I think, to the benefit of the overall story.

We encounter many more fictional characters in this book, as well as the return of several from the previous. The most notable new characters are the cast of Dracula, although in very different roles to what Stoker’s book portrays with Abraham Van Helsing very much cast as chief villain. Some other characters, especially in the hook for the next in the series, were pretty obscure. I had to google the Raymonds (apparently from a novella I’ve never heard of called The Great God Pan) and that will be important to the next one. I missed Holmes in this one, and kept expecting minor characters who turn up to be him in disguise, and disappointed when they weren’t.

I found the interjections from the various members of the club into the book somewhat more irritating this time around. Nearer the start, it was quite frequent and distracting from the story. Later on, the frequency of the interjections dropped and they became enjoyable again – sometimes interjecting with snarky comments and sometimes dropping in some exposition in without being too clunky. But at the start, they are overused and irritating (and the repeated ‘adverts’ for the previous book soon become wearing, after the first couple of times).

That all feels a bit negative, so it’s important to be clear that I still enjoyed this book a lot and will look forward to the next volume. The members of the Athena Club are all really interesting and fun characters, whose distinct personalities all shine. I very definitely care about all of them (yes, even Diana).

— UPDATE JULY 2021 —

Rereading the series again, I feel I was definitely too harsh on this book. The interjections from the cast were never less than charming, and the adverts for the previous book were many fewer than I remembered, and not nearly as annoying as I remembered. I can’t remember why I felt that it was looser than its predecessor. Although I can still imagine it being cut into two books, this time round, I think the two sections work well together, flowing from one into the other. No hesitation in upgrading the score from 3 to 4 stars.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534437258
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year of publication: 2018

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