Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday | Book Review


Genre: Ya, Horror, Retelling, Gothic

Source: Netgally (In return for an honest review)

“Two halves of the same whole.They cannot live together, yet
cannot die apart.”
-Jessica Verday, Of Monsters and Madness

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.

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. [Goodreads]


* I would like to thank Netgalley and Egmont USA for the opportunity to read and review this book*

When I first heard about this book it kept being referred to as a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s Annabel Lee. When I heard this I was excited to get my hands on it because I love Poe and Annabel Lee is my favorite! I should state that this is not so much a retelling of Annabel Lee, but of classic gothic horror. I personally would say its more inspired by classic gothic horror in a way and part just telling the stories over that we already know, but just mashing them all together. To say the least I was highly disappointed with this book.

Verday managed to create a story that held true to the atmospheric feeling that comes from classic gothic horror. It was dark and mysterious with the creepy feeling just in the background waiting to present itself at the right moment. The story was driven much by the suspense and mystery that was weaved through the pages and made for a fast paced read. Many other aspects of the story/book fell short and frustrated me. The biggest thing that bothered me was I felt like the story took to much from its inspiration and classic works that it seemed very unoriginal. At times the story felt like it was just a work that was cut and paste from those classic gothic horrors that include (most prominently) Annabel Lee and The Fall of The House of Usher Edgar Allen Poe and the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louise Stevenson. I felt that even the use of the names from these works just took it too far. I thought she took too many liberties with the life of Edgar Allen Poe, but I did appreciate that she referenced his other work that came from the character himself.

There also was not enough story. I felt that in many parts the books was extremely rushed and this caused for there to not be enough character development that I was hoping to receive. We start to get snippets of information that help to form and round out the character like the fact that Annabel wants to go into medicine, which during that time it was not what women do. It starts to form the ideas that she is independent and strong willed, but that point does not form much past that due to the short and rushed storyline. Due to the fact the writing ended up seeming stiff. There were a few parts where the author created some beautiful sentences and really brought the story to life and gave it that gothic horror feel, but I don’t think she did that enough throughout the story. The huge twist in the story also was ruined by the prologue, which definitely affected the way I felt about the book because it then became predictable and lost some of its suspense.

Overall I was not extremely pleased with this book. There were a few things I believe were done really well and I think that the story was interesting and intrigued me at times. I just feel like the execution of the story was not done well. The atmosphere was great and I felt that dark and gloominess that is associated with gothic horror. There were some unique elements and there were parts of the combination of classic stories that I enjoyed, I just wished there were woven together better and with more originality. At times it was just too much and there was too much going on that it created confusion and a rushed feeling in the story. If you haven’t read or are familiar with these classic gothic horror references you might really enjoy this story and be able to really appreciate it, I just think I was expecting something more and couldn’t see past those qualities that frustrated me. So if you are looking for a quick and interesting read I would love to see what your thoughts or feelings about this book are.



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