ARC Review: Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Of Monsters and MadnessAuthor: Jessica Verday
Genre: Historical fiction, retelling, paranormal, young adult
Publisher: Egmont
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
288 pages

Check out the synopsis on Goodreads.

NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Egmont for letting me read this.


What I thought:

I’m a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe so when I saw that this book was a retelling of Annabel Lee, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I enjoyed what Verday with Poe; I’m okay when an author takes creative liberties with an author’s work or life as long as it is laid out. What she did with Poe was very interesting though at times it was quite obvious.

1820s Philadelphia was the perfect setting for the book as it gave Of Monsters and Madness a decidedly creepy feel. There is a dark, Gothic feel to the book, which felt just right for an Edgar Allan Poe retelling. I was really looking forward to an author’s take on Annabel as, in the poem, we don’t know her except through Poe’s eyes. Her mother has recently died and she moves from Siam (Thailand) to Philadelphia to live with her father. She wants to be a doctor, which is not a proper role for a woman at that time. You would think she would be strong willed and brave and fierce, but really, she was boring, in my opinion. Something that irritated me was Annabel’s thoughts: the book is set in her perspective but occasionally we would get her thoughts in italics. The book is set in her perspective! Those are her thoughts, which made the parts in italics rather repetitive and unnecessary.

The book’s pacing is quite slow. It follows an almost day-by-day timeline for Annabel’s first weeks in Philadelphia, and of course, every day is not exciting. There were three or four scenes that I found truly exciting and creepy. I also found that the big secret was pretty obvious early on, though that didn’t stop me from wanting to keep reading and see how it played out.

There is not as much horror or creepiness as one would expect from a retelling of anything Edgar Allan Poe has written. If you are offended by creative liberties in regards to an author’s work or life, I probably wouldn’t recommend this one to you. Overall, the book didn’t really impress me though I won’t say that I hated it. I was obviously intrigued enough to keep reading. The ending was kind of abrupt though, so maybe there’ll be a sequel?

I want to share a few lines that I thought were wonderful and unbelievably romantic. Annabel’s love interest comes to her and this happens:

“You have haunted my dreams. My waking hours. Every moment in between,” he says.
I stare up at him, lost in the darkness of his eyes. He lowers his mouth to mine, and just before he steals away my breath again, he echoes my thoughts. “I am lost in you.”

Ooooweee. If someone said that to me, I’d be gone.

The bottom line: If you are looking for the gothic, horrific, creepy awesomeness that is Edgar Allan Poe, this may not be for you. If you are looking for a quick, strange take on Annabel Lee and Poe, you might want to check this out – particularly around Halloween. This book came so close to being what I wanted, but each time it fell short.

Rating: 5 – take it or leave it

Reading next: The Shadow Prince and Mortal Enchantment by Stacey O’Neale