Book reviews / Fantasy

Book review: Monstrous Design

Wow, last review in June. The pandemic continues to wear on me in annoying ways, such as making all the things I previously enjoyed too difficult to do. So frustrating as I was very much looking forward to this book, being the sequel of Dangerous Remedy which was so very enjoyable.

The sequel finds the Battalion Des Morts split up, half in England and half in France, trying to undermine their enemies, and rescue Olympe. Camille and Al are in England, playing the poor refugees from the Revolution right on James’ doorstop (who stole Olympe at the end of the last novel). James has his own issues to work through with his father and his mentor, but events occur that push his hand. Guil and Ada are left in France, with Ada making the dangerous decision to work with the Duc (the baddie from the last book) to find out what he’s up to but also to do that intellectual work that fulfils her. Both situations are fraught with danger, with everyone playing nice, but also definitely not trusting each other. It was really a great story.

What was also delightful about the sequel was how it felt so different from the first novel. In Dangerous Remedy there is action, derring do and ricocheting from one situation to another, with the characters just hanging on by the barest of margins. In this novel, everyone is in situations they aren’t used to, using subterfuge, holding steely nerves in situations they don’t want to be in, but need to be in to try and find Olympe. Poor Camille, so many dresses, tea and small talk vs taking action and leading with her pistol.

As I loved all the characters from the first novel, I was very NERVOUS in the second. It was also much more of a spy thriller than action thriller compared to the first. With the continuity of characters and plot, it felt very much like the continuation of that story – but with this new situation it felt very fresh and different. What I find frustrating with some novels is where the only thing to do in the sequel is make it MORE BIG AND LIFE THREATENING or the stakes just get incredibly ridiculous, incredibly fast. So it was delightful that Monstrous Design allowed for the continuation of the same level of stakes, but the characters were tested in different more subtle ways. I really enjoyed it. I think like other great series, it means that what happens next feel entirely reasonable, as we have seen a wider depth of abilities from our heroes.

Basically, looking forward to the third novel. Back to France after the revolution, with new and different dangers.

The other thing I continue to enjoy is the atmosphere of the novels. It feels like London and Paris in a way that other novels don’t quite capture. It’s all the little lines when characters are walking from place to place, street names instead of big, famous buildings. I also loved the little bit of Frankenstein that is brought in as well, which I won’t spoil! But the nods to other fiction set in the same time period is delightful. I almost want more of it, but only as delightful easter eggs rather than dominating the narrative – because the characters and plot as they are should have their own stage.

Finally, wonderful conversations with Ada and a character who shall not be named for fear of spoilers, about the position of women at the time. The feelings that Ada have vs this character showing the different ethical and moral approaches to the situation. So great.

ALSO THE END OF THIS BOOK. My heart.

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