The Strange Case of the Alchemist‘s 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!)
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!