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Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy
Title: The Heartless City
Author: Andrea Berthot
Length: 241 pages
Publication: August 17th, 2015 by Curiosity Quills Press
Note: Curiosity Quills sent me this e-book via Netgalley for free in exchange for my honest review.
Once shared secretly among the good doctor’s inner circle, the Hyde drug was smuggled into mass-production – but in pill form, it corrupted its users at the genetic level, leaving them liable to transform without warning. A quarter of the population are now clandestine killers – ticking bombs that could detonate at any given moment.
It’s 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years.
Son of the city’s most prominent physician and cure-seeker, seventeen-year-old Elliot Morrissey has had his own devastating brush with science, downing a potion meant to remove his human weaknesses and strengthen him against the Hydes – and finding instead he’s become an empath, leveled by the emotions of a dying city.
He finds an unlikely ally in Iris Faye, a waitress at one of the city’s rowdier music halls, whose emotions nearly blind him; her fearlessness is a beacon in a city rife with terror. Iris, however, is more than what she seems, and reveals a mission to bring down the establishment that has crippled the people of London.
Together, they aim to discover who’s really pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake, and why citizens are waking up in the street infected, with no memory of ever having taken the Hyde drug…
Heart-eating monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face.
This book is written in third person limited, but borders on omniscient. This is due to the fact that the main character followed in the book, Elliot Morrissey, is an empath. For those who don’t know an empath is someone who feels the emotions of the people around them. Elliot’s ability to feel others’ emotions allows the reader insight into what the other characters are feeling, without definitive answers as to what exactly they’re thinking.
While the narration mainly follows Elliot, it occasionally, and inconsistently, jumps to follow other characters. This allows for more in-depth insight into those specific characters’ thoughts and lives. Even so, the inconsistency in the narration focus was troubling for me. Personally, I would’ve preferred the narration to stick with a single character or more equally divide the focus among the characters so as not to take away from the story by the sudden viewpoint change.
Setting: I love that the book’s set in London, England in the year 1903. It relies on actual historical details while exquisitely implementing fiction and lore. Additionally, I love this time period because of all the little details about what’s proper and improper and the societal standards at the time. It really adds to the overall style of the book.
Writing: The writing style is beautiful and detailed, allowing the reader to truly envision the world in the book. Such deft imagery brings London to life. It makes it easy for a reader to slip into the story, particularly the parts that emphasize Elliot’s empathy. They aren’t written as feelings. Instead, it’s written as emotions that control and interact with parts of the body, creating a seamless change between action and the characters’ feelings.
Pace: This book’s a quick and easy read. Its fast pace is aided by the fact that the entire story unfolds in a matter of just a few days, constantly revealing information along the way to keep the reader interested. The intrigue peaks the mind, while the action scenes kick up the suspense. Both push the story forward with ease.
Non-Spoilered Plot: The spin on the typical Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story is fantastic! I love what the author did with the tale, how she tweaked the lore, used it, built off it, and made it her own. It used the original tale, but wasn’t a re-telling, which is great! Unfortunately, the reveal of information and the ending are predictable. (See below for full details.)
Characters: The characters are both believable and unbelievable, and at times annoying.
Elliot is crippled by his empathy. Unable to cope with the constant intake of other people’s emotions makes him a whiny, unsociable hermit. Though, that doesn’t seem much different from what he was like before the manifestation of his ability based on what the narrator reveals about his past. Unfortunately, that makes him dull. He constantly explains what everyone else feels, but Elliot hardly ever has emotions of his own, making it difficult to connect with him, be invested in him, and care about what happens to him.
Iris Faye, our other main character, is unique because of her ability. This ability offers the opportunity for her to be a captivating, well-written character. Even so, she still comes across as the stereotypical heroine, who strives to save everyone from the bigger enemy of the ‘government’. She’s fearless, but afraid to open herself up. She’s stubborn, even when it will obviously blow up in her face. She then becomes even more stereotypical of the YA heroine by actually being the cure for the Hydes.
Plot: The overarching plot of this book is unique and exciting. It takes the original tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and expands it to the entire city of London, adding a very zombie-style apocalypse tone by putting the city under quarantine because of the outbreak of Hyde monsters. Therefore, the characters are automatically forced into a fight for survival. This sets up the basis for an action-packed read.
From there the plot breaks down into sub-plots with less action, but more intrigue, such as that of Elliot being an empath, which draws him to Iris Faye. Their relationship, driven by curiosity, propels the reader into the throng of lies and secrets. When Elliot brings a supposedly dead Iris back to the palace she reveals her unique ability to control any part of her body in a natural way, such as slowing her heartbeat to a rate where she appears dead. Such a reveal could be amazing to build on, and the reasoning behind her abilities and her history are absolutely fantastic.
Unfortunately, the closer we get to the end of the book, the more and more predictable the plot becomes. Elliot and Iris fall in love with each other. Cam and Andrew have secretly been in love with each other the whole time, which is super taboo given the time period of the story. The Lord Mayor takes Iris’s blood so he can heal himself like she can. Cam obviously has to be the one to kill the Lord Mayor, his father, because he has to conquer his fears. Elliot’s father has an epiphany about how he shouldn’t shut out his son. Oh! And everyone lives happily ever after with the only dead person being the inconsequential footman, Albert.
What I did like about the ending of this book is that Elliot, the main character, isn’t the one to save the day or have the special power. Yes, he’s an empath. However, he doesn’t discover what the cure for the Hydes is, isn’t the cure for the Hydes, and he doesn’t save the day by killing the Lord Mayor. Basically, he’s a bystander rather than the hero. That’s why I liked it. Even so, I leave this book with my rating of 3 stars.
My name is Andrea Berthot (the “t” is silent, like in “merlot”). I’m a YA writer represented by Jen Linnan and I write Young Adult stories involving history, romance, magic, literature, and some good, old-fashioned butt-kicking. My debut novel, THE HEARTLESS CITY – a YA historical fantasy based on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – will be published by Curiosity Quills Press August 17th, 2015. I also teach High School English and Creative Writing and live in Winfield, Kansas with my husband and our two sons, Maximus and Leonardo.