Summoned to her father's home in 1820's Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father's assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they're letting on.
(Summary and Pic from goodreads.com. I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)
My Review: I have to admit I was a little surprised by this book. First off, and this should have been an obvious thing, but it was still a surprise to me—Of Monsters and Madness is a fictional account of some of the life of Edgar Allen Poe. When I read the description, I thought it might be “based on” historical fact or even a somewhat-biographical version of his life. Not so. It is more like a nod to the fact that Edgar Allen Poe is a somewhat unknown weirdo. Yeah, he’s creepy. Yeah, he’s obviously got some issues. So the question is this: would the serious creeper Edgar Allen Poe even in his fictional state make a good gothic novel?
Yes. Oh yes.
And this was the other surprise to me. I’m not your typical teenage reader (who are we kidding? I’m almost decade and a half away from that!) but still. This book creeped me out. In a good way, of course. It’s not like I felt like I had to call up a Catholic priest to have my house exorcised after reading this book, and it’s also not like I had to call Mulder and Scully to come bail me out of an obviously paranormal situation. It just had a creeping dread to it which was super cool. You know, the kind that you’re watching the main character (naïve, beautiful, you know the drill) get herself in these situations where you’re almost yelling at the book “Don’t do it! Don’t you see?! He’s a creep! How can you not know it’s him?!!” In my defense, I never did this out loud. My bulldog was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her. She keeps my feet warm. But I certainly did think it.
And so here’s what you’ve got—a very fun gothic horror novel with a PG rating. And I really liked that. I don’t feel that I need to be overwhelmed with gore and disgust to get that creepy dread that is so fun. I’m giving it 4 stars for that. Because I don’t think in order to have a creepy book you have to stoop to that level. You can dabble, you can dance around it, you can nod to the fact that all involved are not exactly sane, but keep it clean and do all that? Win. Also, this is a fast read with relatable characters and a fun plot. The best part? There’s a sequel, which is a big relief because it ends on a major cliffhanger and I may have to hunt the author down were it not for that.
Looking for some YA Fic of the gothic horror ilk? Read this. Looking for something low commitment to get you in the mood for Halloween? Read this. It’s a fun, easy read.
My rating: 4 stars
For the sensitive reader: I would rate this book PG for some gore (there is murder, after all), but nothing that is above the sensitivities of a young YA reader.