“A story? You are recording your horrors?”
“How am I to accurately write about something unless I have been a firsthand witness to it?”
There is nothing bad about this book, but fans of The Madman's Daughter series will find that this series pales in comparison. It is so, so predictable.
This book has a beautiful atmosphere, it has an enjoyable main character and narrator. However, the pacing is slow, the plot is easily foreseeable by anyone not mentally deficient, and there was not enough horror to hold my interest. The mysteries, the "hints," the murders...all fell flat. The mystery feels incomplete.
This book also takes a considerable amount of liberties with Edgar Allan Poe. Poe Purists will not enjoy this book.
This is going to be a very brief review (for me, that is), because there's just not much I can say about this book. I just don't have a whole lot of complaints or praises for this book. It doesn't hurt, but neither is it great. I made a reference to The Madman's Daughter and I meant it. That book is superior to this one in every way. You will find more horror in that book, you will find a better mystery, you will find a character who is not so dishwater-pale. This book is not terrible, but it is just washed out in comparison.
It seems the stories I have been told were untrue. The streets of America are not paved with gold but with uneven stones.
Annabel Lenore Lee has newly arrived in Philadelphia. It is 1826. Annabel has spent the past 10 years living with her beloved mother (now deceased) in Siam (present-day Thailand). Compared to beautiful, colorful, vibrant, sunny Siam, dank, dark, gloomy Philadelphia could not be more different. Her home is beautiful, grand, a majestic mansion.
A sense of unease fills my stomach as I stare up at what is to be my new home.
Dark and foreboding, it appears just as unwelcoming as the rest of Philadelphia.
But it's all the less welcoming for it.
Life in a new country takes getting used to. From knowing "her place" as the young mistress of a house...apparentlyy, a young lady is not expected to help out around the house---as compared to Siam, where there are no class lines among the villagers and missionaries.
I hurry out of bed and reach for the bucket. “Let me help you with that.”
“No, miss,” she scolds. “It isn’t yer place.”
To dressing, to behaving like a young lady in a culture so completely foreign to her.
“Practice makes perfect. It shall certainly take time to prove this with someone of your limited background.”
Dropping my arms, I feel an ache in my shoulders.
Clearly, my education is going to require a vast amount of practice.
Frankly, life in America sucks. She is a disgrace. Her father is disappointed in her. Annabel is unwanted, a disappointment. A disgrace.
Father takes another step closer. Deep lines mark his face. He looks almost as old as Grandpere. “She bowed like a man, for God’s sake. Her manners are sorely lacking, and until they have been improved, I shall not encourage her.”
The only bright spot in her life are her beloved grandfather...and a young man. Allan Poe.
All is not well in Philadelphia. The headlines of the newspaper scream of murder, death, dismemberment.
MURDER AT RITTENHOUSE SQUARE.
POLICE FIND GRISLY SCENE OF DISMEMBERMENT
...the limbs had been torn asunder from the torso and the head cleaved from his neck. POLICE urge all women and children to take heed of this atrocity and to take special cautions.
The streets of Philadelphia aren't the only place that holds secrets and danger. There are mysterious figures walking her gardens at night. There is a strange, nervous, twitchy young man newly hired to watch over the grounds of the mansion. There are hidden rooms in Annabel's new home. Rooms that she should not explore.
Every muscle in my body has tightened and my hand shakes when I place it upon the doorknob. I take a deep breath and try to steady my nerves, and just as I am about to turn the knob—
Someone grabs hold of me.
And then there's the kindly Allan's cousin. One who terrifies her. One who holds suspicion.
“Allan’s always a gentleman, that one,” Cook replies.
“He’s very different from his cousin, Edgar,” I say. “I’m amazed they are even related.”
The room instantly goes silent. Cook stares intently at her tea as Maddy and Johanna exchange glances.
“Just stay away from him, miss. Stay away. He’s a right nasty one.”
There are many secrets and mysteries within her house, surrounding her friends, and a man she is coming to love. Annabel must confront these mysteries, as well as come to face with the darkness that may be within her.
I did it because I thought you would be scared.” He watches me carefully. “But I suppose it is in your blood. You were never going to be scared by any of this, were you? You are your father’s daughter after all, Annabel Lee.”
The Setting: There is a dark Gothic feel about this book, and it is quite atmospheric. It is to be expected, since the basis of this book is Edgar Allan Poe, after all.
All I can make out is a large structure of pale stones, tall doors, and rows of windows gleaming like sharp teeth against the night.
There are a ton of rains and thunderstorms, and dreary weather in general. It doesn't hold a candle to the beautiful gaslamp-lit setting in The Madman's Daughter. There are a few grisly scenes in a book, some involving the dissection of an animal. Again, there is no comparison. I was only mildly intrigued. I was never disgusted by any of the very minute gore in this book, and I longed for more blood, more horror. I never got it.
The Characters: Bland. All of them. Including Edgar & Allan Poe, which is simply unforgivable. Allan Poe is more romantic lover and brooding poet than a wildly exciting hero...which is rather appropriate to the actual person, I suppose. We see Allan as he struggles to put down his words, to write his story.
His attention returns to me. “Have you ever felt a story was inside you, but you could not do it justice? It’s as if there were something standing in your way, blocking you from being able to write the story, and only this other piece of you could understand whatever it was?”
As for Annabel, I just don't have much to say. She is likeable, but she is so bland that I feel she has no personality at all. I like her; if we were to meet in the streets as strangers, she is the sort at which I would nod a polite hello, but I would completely forget her by the next street.
Annabel is a really nice person. She is truly, genuinely nice. She is smart. She is an aspiring surgeon, which displeases her father to no ends. Annabel truly wants to please her father. She is a people-pleaser, and it upsets her so much that she keeps continuing to be a disappointment.
I am saddened that I have already offended Father with my rough manners and poorly chosen gift.
I wonder if I shall always be such a disappointment to him.
She has knowledge of medicinal herbs, and she constantly makes references to Siam, which is appropriate, but I felt like it disrupted the flow of the book quite a bit. Not to mention the discrepancies in the references to Siam.
They don't have kimonos in Thailand. Wrong country.
The Romance: There is no insta-love, but there is a fair amount of romance. I did not mind the romance. I did not mind that her heart beats quickly at the thought of Allan. It is appropriate for the time, it is expected of a sheltered young woman, with few friends, who seeks the kindness and love and acceptance that she does not receive from her own father.
The romance is predictable, and unremarkable, like everything in this book.
Quotes taken from an uncorrected proof subject to change in the final edition.