I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
London has been in quarantine for 13 years thanks to the Hydes, monstrous-like heart-eating beings that shift from ordinary infected humans who have taken the Hyde drug. Elliot, the son of the physician looking for a cure, who in the search for a weapon against the Hydes accidentally made himself an empath, and Iris, a strange American girl who has no fear, aim to discover the secret of the Hyde drug and uncover the conspiracy around it that could lead all the way to the top through Elliot’s best friend Cambrien – the son of the Lord Mayor of London, who will do anything to stay in power.
Elliot and his eventual Scooby Gang try to discover the awful secrets hidden in this alternate London while still living their lives – enjoying contraband, going to music halls, official dinners to please the Lord Mayor, a brutish and terrifying figure. Now that I take a step back and think about it, it’s not a plot-driven novel. It’s very character driven, and very emotional. Elliot is grieving over the death of his mother, his changed relationship with his father, his new power that he doesn’t want and can’t control, and the guilt of being responsible for a friend’s death.
I mentioned there’s a Scooby Gang! I don’t know what else to call it. There’s this ‘team’ that forms of teen friendships, led by Cambrien, the Lord Mayor’s son. His best friend Elliot is involved, Iris is brought in, and they are joined by Philomena, a fiery debutante-to-be, and Andrew, the brother of the boy Elliot feels guilty over. I love this gang. I love them hanging out, enjoying the contraband, I love their love for each other, I love their secrets and different relationships to each other. It’s so cool to see an actual gang of friends in an alternate-history-paranormal book. Another character to be aware of is the scarily efficient Lord Mayor of London, who is an awful person and an even worse father to Cambrien. I would be genuinely afraid to meet this man.
So this isn’t exactly a retelling of Dr Jekyll and My Hyde, it takes its inspiration from it and twists it into something entirely new. I loved Berthot’s writing, she really managed to get to the heart of every single scene. I loved how the period setting affected the characters and how Elliot came to realise due to his emotions a lot of the propaganda young men are still taught today – that women don’t feel lust, for example. I loved how spot-on all of the emotions Elliot was feeling were described, especially those of other people whose motivation we might not yet have discovered. It definitely made the book re-readable. The whole thing was easily digestible – not exactly light and fluffy, because there are definitely trigger issues in there, but it flowed smoothly and was easy to follow. In fact, I pretty much guessed the big reveal pretty early on but there were enough twists to keep me guessing the results and fallout of other issues.
Spot on. I had to stop reading due to another review book being due but I was always eager to come back to this story while at the same time I tried to read it slower than usual because I didn’t want it to end. It felt high-stakes all the way through and the slower moments were a chance to catch my breath and reflect on what I’d learned and try to predict what might come next – which I often didn’t. I will mention the inevitable romance – it did seem, like most YA, a little on the fast side, but taking into account the fact that Elliot can feel what others feel and Iris can control what she feels, it’s understandable the two should fall in love with such intensity, and I didn’t have an issue with it at all.
I am completely and totally blown away by this book. I absolutely loved it. It’s not one that I would normally pick up looking at the (admittedly pretty, but dark) cover and (admittedly bland until you know what it’s referencing) title, but I am so so glad I did because I had a really great time reading it, falling in love with the characters and becoming invested in their story and outcomes. I am totally up for reading the second book, which from what I gather follows Philomena as she trots off to Manhattan to become a Broadway star.
Note: Andrea Berthot and I started mutually following each other after I started reading this book. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make her be my friend (my precious), but I don’t want anyone getting any ideas about me rating ‘my friend’s book’ 5 stars. It’s not being friends with Andrea that made me love her book: it’s the other way around.