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European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
Book Name: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman
Author: Theodora Goss
Publisher(s): Saga Press
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Historical Fantasy / Mystery
Release Date: July 10, 2018

When we last left our intrepid heroines, they had just received word from Mina Murray, Mary’s governess, that their help was urgently needed for one Lucinda van Helsing.

That’s right. If Dr. Seward and Renfield appearing in the previous book weren’t enough, it’s official. We’re in vampire territory.

A quick update for those who either don’t know what I’m talking about or need a refresher from the first book: Mary Jekyll, Diana Hyde, Catherine Moreau, Beatrice Rappaccini, and Justine Frankenstine are the daughters/creations of four (or five, depending on how you count Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) scientists that we the readers know from literature but the characters in the book know from reality. Those men were members of a secret society of alchemists and specialized in experiments in human transmutation, using young girls because of the belief their bodies and minds are more malleable. It’s as disturbing as it sounds, and the five protagonists still have trouble dealing with what they’ve been made into. (Except Diana. Hardly anything seems to trouble her at all.)

After helping Sherlock Holmes to solve the mystery of Jack the Ripper, our five formed the Athena Club, an organization of monstrous women who go about solving mysteries with their various unique abilities. Their latest: What has happened to Lucinda van Helsing?

Their quest to help her will take them from London to Paris, Vienna, and Budapest, where they finally get to meet the society that has all but haunted them since birth. The society haunts them along the way as well; anyone they meet could be working for the society, either to find a way to study them or to stop them from aiding Lucinda. It’s impossible to trust anyone, perhaps even those they’ve grown closest to. In the end, the only people they can rely on are each other.

But to tell the truth, it’s not nearly as bleak as all that. Anyone who’s read the first book will know Theodora Goss keeps, for the most part, a light touch. While the first book had moments that were close to heartbreaking (and this one does as well), the overall tone is bright, almost to the point of irreverence. When you’re mashing together multiple works from previous centuries into a glorious hodge-podge, it doesn’t pay to take yourself too seriously.

Speaking of, Dracula isn’t the only new novel introduced to this book. Neither of the others are books I’ve read before, and one I hadn’t even heard of. My reading list has grown, and I suspect yours will as well.

(It’s entirely possible there are yet more books inside than I knew of. If so, I’d love to know what they are! Esoteric stuff is super fun at parties.)

Once again, I found myself delighted by this book, not least by the girls’ friendship and the fact that they are able to reach out to others when needed. Sherlock Holmes himself puts them in touch with someone who can help them in Vienna, and Mina provides not only a safe respite but an unexpected ally. For someone who’s had to get used to books where the heroes have no choice but to go it alone and struggle through, it was refreshing to read a book where they not only have supportive friends and allies but are willing to reach out and use that support. That sort of story isn’t to everyone’s taste, I know, but I’ve found it makes for a nice change of pace and a reminder that in the real world we ought to reach out when we can, both to receive and to offer help.

Even though this book changed the scope of the novel, it didn’t do so in a way that felt forced. The Athena Club’s journeys into Europe felt like a natural extension of the plot of the first novel, and not just because Mina’s telegram arrived at the end of The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. At some point, after all, the girls were bound to have some encounter with the society, and if it is an international group, why not have that meeting be on the Continent? The girls don’t have quite as much growth as I might have liked, but then, this novel takes places over a relatively short span of time. Any growth at all (and there is indeed some, especially for Beatrice) is welcome in this case.

The basic conceit of the first book, that it was written by Catherine (and contains the other girls’ comments on the writing) continues through this one, and while it did take some time to grow on me with the first book, I thoroughly enjoyed it in the second. It’s different and fun, and I’m heartily looking forward to the third in the series. After all, as Catherine herself says, there must be a third, or else certain characters will be left in peril.


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