My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I think the writing here was top notch, the only problem is that the story was very bland and boring. It didn’t feel like a Gothic tale, nor did it give off an Edgar Allan Poe type feeling. I’m not even sure why he was the inspiration for this story, when it was very much a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tale.
And even then, it’s fairly obvious to anyone who is reading Of Monsters and Madness that this is the route the story is taking. We meet Allan Poe and then Edgar Poe, who is the cousin of Allan but only appears whenever Allan isn’t around…get it. Edgar Allan Poe. Allan Poe. Edgar Poe.
The plot is fairly simplistic, which isn’t a bad thing, but there wasn’t that spark to make me really like this. I did finish this in one sitting, which is why I’m a fan of the writing, but I kept waiting for a proper payoff that never came.
In Of Monsters and Madness, Annabel Lee travels to Philadelphia to live with her father. Her mother has passed away back in Siam and now Annabel has to live with a man who she didn’t know existed. There, she meets one of her father’s assistants, Allan Poe, and immediately falls for him.
A series of murders are happening in town and the more Annabel learns of them, the more she starts suspecting her father and his ghastly assistant Edgar Poe. Other stuff happens and then the mystery is solved.
When I read the synopsis and saw the cover, I was really excited for this. I love Edgar Allan Poe’s works and I love retellings, but I don’t think I got a good representation of either of these things. Poe’s works felt heavy handed, instead of seamless. And this isn’t a retelling of Annabel Lee, it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I know a lot of people complained about how Annabel seems to care more about her father’s opinion of her and how society might view her, instead of being more driven about her dreams. But to be honest, this sort of character trait made sense. She doesn’t know her father and is from a place that places emphasis on elders. She also wants to fit in, because her father is all that she has left.
She’s the same person who keeps saying, “Mother this.” And “Mother that.” So her behaving in that manner never bothered me.
I did have a bit of an issue with her old home though. Siam seems like it’s present day Thailand, but it has a mishmash of other Asian cultures as well. For example, Annabel has a kimono from there, even though kimonos are from Japan. Her father also remarks that she bows like a man, but bowing in Thailand is a bit different than say Korea or Japan. You bow, but you place your hands together. You also don’t bend down so much; just a dip of your head with your hands in the praying position is enough.
Overall: The writing is the best thing about the novel, but sadly nothing else really works here. The characters don’t really come alive and the retelling is seriously lacking on all fronts. This isn’t a retelling of Annabel Lee, it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I know this is the third time I’m mentioning it, but I can’t stress that enough. If something is billed as a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe, then it needs to include some of its original flavour. I feel like if I this was marketed properly, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I’d probably give it a better rating too. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case here.
The mystery can be seen a mile away and even though Edgar Allan Poe is here, he never feels like the same Poe that we know and love.
The ending made it seem like this was the start of a series. I don’t think I’ll be reading it, but it will be interesting to see if another classic story is “retold.”
Despite my complaints, the writing is good so I might check out the Hollow books. Just nothing from this series though.
Of Monsters and Madness was provided by netgalley
- Quoth the Raven: Read Jessica Verday’s Of Monsters and Madness (but Expect Lots of Unanswered Questions) – Quote: “I actually enjoyed reading this book quite a bit because, despite some inconsistencies and a number of unanswered questions, I generally found the characters engaging, the plot fast-moving, and the question of what exactly’s going to happen next sufficient to keep me glued.”
- Of Monsters and Madness Review – Rating: 1 star
- ARC Review: Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday – Rating: 5 – Take it or leave it
- Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday – Rating: 3.5 stars
- Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday (Review) – Rating: 2 stars