The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1)

By Theodora Goss

Rating: 4 stars

After the death of her parents, Mary Jekyll is broke, but her mother’s papers indicate her father’s associate, and wanted murderer, Edward Hyde, may still be alive. Fired with the idea of claiming the reward for his capture, with the help of Sherlock Holmes, she goes after him. Instead she finds his daughter, Diana. Together, they delve deeper into a mystery that leads them to other unusual, indeed, some might say, monstrous, women and a secret society whose members will stop at nothing to get what they want.

I really enjoyed this adventure, which could have just as easily been entitled The League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, as it brings together various fictional women from gothic fiction. The author, in a piece on John Scalzi’s blog describes having been struck with the thought that female monsters in that sort of fiction always die. But what happens if the puma woman escaped Moreau’s island; if Rappaccini’s daughter didn’t die of the poison antidote; or if Frankenstein didn’t actually destroy the bride he created for his monster. This book is the fruit of that rumination, and it’s a huge amount of fun.

The book is told as Mary Jekyll’s story, but the other characters are, in no way, diminished because of this. They each get their own chapter telling of their origin story but are present in another way as well. The author uses the device that the story is being written by Catherine Moreau, but, being annoyed at the interruptions of the others, leaves their interjections in place in the text. For the first few pages, this was annoying, but it soon became very much part of the narrative, and I started to thoroughly enjoy the interruptions. Each of them has a very distinct voice and it’s a nice way to get additional points of view into the story, where appropriate. This device does, however, mean that the tension is lessened a bit, since we know that all the characters survive to the end, but that’s a minor issue and one that doesn’t bother me.

I really liked all the characters, their individual stories and the mystery that brought them all together. The story moves at a rapid pace and is very readable. I can’t wait to read more adventures of the Athena Club.

Book details

ISBN: 9781481466516
Publisher: Gallery / Saga Press
Year of publication: 2017

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