I stumbled across Andrea Berthot on twitter one day and seen she had a link to her book in her bio. Decided to have a look and then quickly decided I needed to have a read. And I must say, I made a fabulous discovery.
It’s 1903 and London has been in quarantine for 13 years. Dr Jekyll has accidentally created a race of heart eating monsters. The monarchy has fled leaving the Lord Mayor in charge. Elliot Morrissey, the son of the most prominent doctor (who is searching for a cure) has suffered his own brush with a science experiment gone wrong, and finds himself an empath, someone who can feel the emotions of everyone around them.
He forms an unlikely ally in Iris Faye, but soon finds she is not what she seems, like everyone else around him. Together they and their friends discover the truth of who is pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake, and why citizens are waking up in the street infected, with no memory of ever having taken the Hyde drug…
The book begins with a prologue, and I must admit it was slightly confusing as at this point we are with Iris and her mother and its years before. Oh and we don’t know its Iris until later on when we meet her again. But the very distinct description of her hair and eyes are a signifier later, and we need this scene to get a little background on the story. However it does start as if it is a prequel to the story we are going to enter (which I wouldn’t be against, I’d love to see Virginia’s full story).
There is good evidence that Andrea done her homework on Victorian London throughout, but in some ways it doesn’t even matter as this is a London where time has stopped. They have no influence from the outside world, other than what Cam, the Lord Mayors son has snuck in through food shipments. It is interesting to see a London so uncultured. Cam says, ‘Beyond this city there are new songs, new ideas, new everything.’ In reality London is such a vibrant moving city, but we have joined it in a time when everyone wants to get out, to move on from the past they are stuck in. Elliot, Cam and their friend Andrew, all do the exact same job as their fathers. There are no opportunities, no other careers. The women are stuck to being maids, waitresses, barmaids. Even Virginia the scientist must hideaway her intelligence.
My one issue when it comes to the female characters is Philomena. She has the quick wit and independence to make her a fast favourite, but she isn’t introduced until she is needed. This bothered me slightly as she is such an interesting character, and the second book of the series ‘The Hypnotic City’ is even dedicated to her adventures after the quarantine. But she is only introduced to the story when we discover that Cams father wants to marry him off. I don’t like to think of Philomena as a plot device, as she is probably one of the most well rounded characters in the series.
I do feel like the characters and the relationships are what mattered in this book. The hydes and the quarantine are exciting and consistent and add a good twist to the end of the story, but I feel these characters would bring life to any story. This could have been set in regular London and I still would have loved every single character, (even the bad guys were well developed).
However the relationship between Elliot and Iris did move exceptionally quickly. One minute he meets her in the bar she works in and a few hours later he is gushing about how brave she is and how much he admires her. Yes he is an empath and can see her emotions, but I would have liked an extension to this declaration. If anything, I wanted the story to be longer to allow for this.
My 2 absolute favourite things about this book were:
- The painting scene. When Elliot takes Iris into the room he used to paint in with his mother, my heart melted.
- Cam and Andrew’s relationship. Just because something is set in a time when it was not okay to be openly gay, does not mean that no one was gay. We can see the bond between these 2 from the beginning, and the struggle of not being free to be open about it only makes it that much stronger. It’s not something that should be hidden.
I would really recommend this book. If you are into historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, there is honestly a bit of something for everyone. Also pick up the second in the series ‘The Hypnotic City’, as I am currently reading and enjoying it. So happy to see Philomena in her own story, and we are now in New York, so that’s fun!