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Title: Of Monsters and Madness
Author: Jessica Verday
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Synopsis: A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.
Annabel Lee is summoned from Siam to live with her father in 1820's Philadelphia shortly after her mother's death, but an unconventional upbringing makes her repugnant to her angry, secretive father.
Annabel becomes infatuated with her father's assistant Allan, who dabbles in writing when he's not helping with medical advancements. But in darker hours, when she's not to be roaming the house, she encounters the devilish assistant Edgar, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Allan, and who others insist doesn't exist.
A rash of murders across Philadelphia, coupled with her father's strange behavior, leads Annabel to satisfy her curiosity and uncover a terrible truth: Edgar and Allan are two halves of the same person - and they are about to make the crimes detailed in Allan's stories come to life. Unless Annabel stops them.
Review: I love a good retelling of a classic story, especially when the author puts his or her own spin on it! Edgar Allan Poe, Annabel Lee, and what sounds like Jekyll and Hyde? Definitely right up my alley.
However, I kind of really hate when the synopsis for a book gives away too much. I wish that going in to this book, I didn't know Allan and Edgar are two halves of the same person. I wanted them to be two distinct people, maybe cousins or brother, who just happen to look strikingly similar. I didn't want to know that there's a Jekyll and Hyde retelling going on - we could have just left it at a "classic Gothic horror" and been ok. I think it ruins the surprise and some of the suspense. I just felt like I needed to get that out of the way before I talk about the actual book though.
Going in to this book, I really expected to have to watch Annabel die. I mean, that's how the original poem goes, right? And I just recently read another retelling of Annabel Lee and it completely broke my heart. Luckily in this case, I didn't spend most of the book crying in a corner. Instead, I was wrapped up in the mystery of a string of grisly murders and swept away by the whirlwind romance between Annabel and Allan. I was hooked from the very beginning.
It was really interesting to read about Annabel's transition from non-traditional upbringing in Siam, where she works with her mother and practices basic medicine, to the more proper and traditional society of 1820's Philadelphia. She is now forbidden to practice any sort of medicine, her true passion, and she must learn to behave like a proper lady. I'm pretty sure if I was in her situation, I would not have taken things with as much grace as she does, so props to her. It seems like her father stifles her, but that's not really the case; she just learns and grows in different ways than she was previously used to.
Jessica's writing is beautiful and haunting and all of the things that make a good Gothic horror-mystery-romance work. Everything just feels very dark, even when it isn't, and I found myself hoping Annabel wouldn't make the obvious choices and mistakes. I had quite a few things figured out way earlier than Annabel (especially because of the synopsis....) but it was still interesting to read as she begins to uncover the truths that her father, grandfather, and her fathers assistants are keeping hidden.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It's a strange mash-up of two classic stories that someone manages to work exceptionally well. I can't wait to read more about Annabel, Allan, Edgar, and this world, and I hope there's a sequel in the works! Especially after that ending! If you're a fan of retellings, I would recommend this to you. Especially if you don't mind spoilers from the synopsis. If spoilers bother you as much as they do me.... there's still quite a few mysteries that aren't ruined and it's well worth the read! A 4/5.