Of Monsters and Madness

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday


Annabel Lee is summoned from Siam to live with her father in 1820’s Philadelphia shortly after her mother’s death, but an unconventional upbringing makes her repugnant to her angry, secretive father.

Annabel becomes infatuated with her father’s assistant Allan, who dabbles in writing when he’s not helping with medical advancements. But in darker hours, when she’s not to be roaming the house, she encounters the devilish assistant Edgar, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Allan, and who others insist doesn’t exist.

A rash of murders across Philadelphia, coupled with her father’s strange behavior, leads Annabel to satisfy her curiosity and uncover a terrible truth: Edgar and Allan are two halves of the same person – and they are about to make the crimes detailed in Allan’s stories come to life. Unless Annabel stops them.

Of Monsters and Madness
Jessica Verday
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication: September 2014
Genre: YA, Retelling, Paranormal, Horror
I received this title for free in exchange for an honest review
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Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

So, I was very excited to read this book. I am a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as a YA fan, so I thought this would be a nice, fun read to start the RIP IX reading challenge. Unfortunately, this book just left me wondering why anyone would want to write it. Intertwining Edgar Allan Poe, and his writings, with the side story told by Verday has done a huge disservice to both halves. Verday’s own “original” story would have sufficed on its own, and likely been a better tale told. Instead, trying to combine her own narrative with a well known and loved author and his literature, only worked to cheapen her voice, likening it to a poorly written self-insert fanfic than a story of horror and mystery.

We begin with the arrival of Annabel Lee, daughter of a disgraced doctor. The novel continually mentions she is from Siam, and how she considers herself ugly because of how different she is, how dark her skin is, how “weird” she is for only knowing the indigenous words for certain things such as ginger. I thought perhaps this is the one positive thing about the novel, we actually might have a novel with a PoC female protagonist. Yet, all that the author mentions is for naught as we learn that Annabel isn’t actually a native of Thailand, but the daughter of an English woman who left England with a group of missionaries in order to keep herself and her daughter from the “shame” of being without a husband/father. This revelation just completely disintegrates any real purpose that Annabel’s Siam origin had. Why not just have Annabel actually be Thai? Why steal all of the culture only to impose it on a “white” character? Having her actually be half Thai, half white would have made much more sense.

Annabel, once reunited with her father and grandfather in Philadelphia, meets Allan Poe and his mysterious cousin, Edgar Poe, whom no one admits exists. She falls in love with one and reviles the other. Eventually, she discovers crimes that have been committed and Verday introduces another famous horror story she borrows inspiration from in the form of a secret serum that separates the good from the bad in human nature. That’s right, we also get a bit of RLS’s “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

If Verday simply made this a story about a foreign daughter coming to meet her father and then stumbling into a set of bizarre crimes, it would have made for such a better story. Instead, her story is interrupted with excerpts from Poe’s works that serve only as a distraction.

I don’t even know what else to write about for this review. The book lacked so much substance, it’s difficult to critique. It was a quick read. It was simple and easy to understand, there just wasn’t any reason to it. There wasn’t a reason to read it, let alone write it.

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About Lulu

Thirty-something year old educator based in New York, Lulu loves books, blogging, gaming, and her pom son Frodo Barkins with whom she shares her life. Book reviews specialize in all kinds of fantasy, some YA, some romance, and some contemporary, especially in the gothic genre.