The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss, a review (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club #1)

The Strange Case of the Alchemists Daughter by Theodora Goss is the first book in The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club trilogy, following the unknown products of Victorian era mad scientists as they solve crimes. This was recommended to me by a few people, with the lovely Kari gifting me it (thank you so much!)

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

This is the perfect autumn/spooky season read, with our main character Mary being the daughter of Dr Jekyll, an infamous scientist. There are so many characters from Victorian stories here, with of course The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as well as Sherlock Holmes, Rappaccini’s Daughter, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Frankenstein. I’ve not read Rappaccini’s Daughter or The Island of Doctor Moreau yet but they’re firmly on my tbr after having read this book!

Theodora Goss is clearly well versed in these books (or at least, the ones I’ve read) because she manipulates their aspects so well to create this novel. This is not a literary book, don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun YA fantasy mystery novel, but the elements she uses are absolutely fantastic. I also love how Goss integrates more modern thinking into the book. There is both atheism and strong religious faith, a character who was raised by prostitutes and trusts them more than she’ll ever trust a man, talks of votes for women, and a strong feeling that these women are capable and able to stand on their own.

I also love the banter and the way that this book is written, with interjections throughout the narrative from the girls as they disagree or comment on what is being written. It adds another dimension to the storytelling and also adds some extra intrigue to picking up the next book, as they’re clearly discussing this from a future time. The girls are all so different and yet gel together to make a fantastic group.

Additionally, the mystery in this book is fun and done well! We’re given plenty of little clues and puzzle pieces, but both the reader and the girls don’t quite know enough until the end to make the full picture. But not all of the lose ends are tied up, leading nicely into the rest of the series and leaving me impatient for more!

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8 and Enjoyment: 8 giving an 8.14 average and a 4.5* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: abandonment, animal cruelty, child abuse, death of parent, confinement, misogyny, murder, mutation of the human body, torture.

This is such a fun book and I’m excited to delve into the rest of the trilogy! Is this something you would pick up? I’ve not read this sort of retelling in a while and it was a lot of fun!

Mathilda by Mary Shelley, a review

Mathilda by Mary Shelley is a short work that was suppressed from publication by her father and was only first published a century after her death.

Considering the content of this book, that certainly sheds a different light upon the possibly autobiographical nature of the book. However, the darkest aspects of this book are conjecture only (with William Godwin supressing the novella to avoid rumours), with the writing about the father’s grief at losing his wife and inability to care for his daughter being that which mimicked life.

I read this for the Mary-Shelley-A-Thon for the prompt of reading a book/poem by Shelley herself, and I’m glad that motivated me to pick up this interesting little read. I went into the book completely blind and was very surprised by the content (I recommend checking the trigger warnings for this one if you need to, they’ll be highlightable down below).

This book is very dark, following a young woman’s life without love and with much pain. She blames herself for the actions of her father and cannot reconcile to forgive herself, despite not being to blame whatsoever. Mathilda is in complete isolation for the majority of this book, left to be introspective alone.

Shelley depicts Mathilda’s mental deterioration with skill. You can see the character’s slow mental decline whilst attempting to tackle her thoughts and demons. Being isolated certainly causes these to develop much further than they would’ve in company and leads her down a very dark path.

On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 8, Atmosphere: 7, Writing: 8, Plot: 8, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 7, and Enjoyment: 7 giving a score of 7.57 and a 4* rating.

Highlight here for trigger warnings: death of parent, incest, suicidal thoughts, suicide, grief, adult/minor relationship, mental illness, terminal illness, paedophilia.

This book is only a first draft, as she sent this draft to her father and he never released it back to her. Despite that it is well crafted and really shows Shelley’s talent. I can only imagine what this novella could have become if Shelley had been able to spend time on revisions.

Have you read Shelley’s most famous novel? Frankenstein. Or any of her other works? If so let me know your thoughts on her writing! I think I might need to pick up more from her in the future.

Read the classics first?

Recently I was gifted The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss by the lovely Kari from Kari-ng for Books on YouTube and it’s inspired by so many dark Victorian novels! Frankenstein, Sherlock, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and more!

I’ve not read all of the originals yet, especially not the slightly more obscure ones like Rappuccini’s Daughter. And I’m debating on whether I just read the book with the knowledge I have now. Or if I wait until I’ve read the original works!

What do you think? What would your decision be?

Part of me doesn’t want to miss out on the nuances and the in jokes that will be made about these original works, but part of me thinks I’m being silly and to just enjoy the book as it is!

It’s me so it’ll be a while before I get around to any new books, but I’d love to hear your thoughts to help me make my decision!!!

Frankenstein – a review

The wonderful Caitlyn from Mad Cheshire Rabbit gifted me this book earlier on this year. Purely to force me to read it because she knew I wouldn’t until I had a physical copy in my hands! 😂 This book, as many know, follows a man named Frankenstein who aims to create life artificially and succeeds. In pop culture this is shown as a big, green, monster who he eventually manages to bring to life. And then who causes destruction. But how accurate is this?

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Not at bloody all is the answer. When I heard this being described as gothic and with the pop culture references (although to be fair I’ve never seen an “adaptation”) I was expecting the crux of this to be the creation of the monster itself and the immediate struggle afterwards. I found a much different novel instead. The creation of the creature actually happens much earlier on in the book. It’s not the crux point at all.

This was a really big surprise for me, but we then got to discuss the concepts of life. Of exclusion and of treating fellow man the way we would wish to be treated. There are discussions of life and death, and so many unique and interesting topics! I wasn’t expecting philosophy!

But what I really had not been expecting? Was to love this book. I was reading this purely because it’s Caitlyn’s favourite. That was the only reason. But I adored this. It was such a lovely read. I adored all of the topics which Shelley brought up within the text as well as the main plot of the book itself. It’s a wonderful book and I can totally understand why it has lasted the decades (and centuries!) after its publication.

One point I would like to make is that I found the ending of the book very predictable, despite it feeling like it was supposed to be a twist. However, most likely this is because the book was published in EIGHTEEN EIGHTEEN and so at the time this probably was a twist!!

Highlight here for trigger warnings: attempted murder, child death, death, depression, islamophobia, murder, parental abandonment, xenophobia

For my CAWPILE ratings I gave:

Characters: 9

Atmosphere: 8

Writing: 6

Plot: 7

Intrigue: 8

Logic: 5

Enjoyment: 7

For an overall rating of 7.14 which comes out at a 4*! I’m so glad that Caitlyn gave me the push needed to pick this one up and I might have to read more from Shelley in the future!

The Mary Shelley-a-Thon!

The amazing and wonderful Caitlyn from Mad Cheshire Rabbit is hosting the Mary Shelley-a-thon once again in 2021! Her favourite book is Frankenstein but she also loves the rest of Shelley’s works and wants to promote more people to read them! But you can read modern books to fit most of the prompts!

I definitely recommend checking out Caitlyn’s video below, but I’ll post the prompts below that and the books I’m thinking of reading!

Here are the prompts!!!

1. Read a book by Mary Shelley

2. Read a poetry collection or a book by a poet

3. Read a book that was published in 1818/1831 or a book by an author who was born in either of those years (+/- 5 years)

4. Read a book you keep saying you will get to but still haven’t

5. Read a book set in the late 1700s or the early 1800s

6. Read a book in a country the author was not from/a book that features travel

7. Read a horror/gothic

Now the only one I’m going to struggle with is to read a book by Mary Shelley, cause the only one I own is Frankenstein and I read that earlier in 2021! So I may just have to reread it…. hmmm

I don’t have any books by poets on my shelves as well, but I would love to listen to more by Elizabeth Acevedo after loving The Poet X in 2020!

For a book that was published within those years, Caitlyn gifted me Wuthering Heights cause she loves that book and wants me to read it, and that would work so I’m probably going to pick that up! And I think it’ll work for prompt 5 too!

I’ll pick any tbr vet for prompt 4, that’s probably the easiest for me to get to!

The last two prompts are a little more difficult for me, I think I have a good option for travel but I want to check more of my books. And I don’t think I have any horror or gothic books! Look I’ve been trying not to add to my tbr! I’ll have to ask Caitlyn for some recommendations!

Are you going to join in with the Mary Shelley-a-thon? Have you read any of her books? Let me know!!