Saturday, February 20, 2016

Women in Horror: Her Dark Curiosity

Juliet Moreau is back in England, taken in by her father's old colleague. She's on top of British society again, which is a vast improvement over when she was last there. Lucy supports her absolutely and continues to be her friend in good times and bad. Unfortunately, the serum designed to keep her stable isn't as effective anymore. Juliet frantically experiments to find a better replacement, but failure after failure results. On top of this, the Wolf of Whitechapel is slaughtering people in the night and leaving a white flower. This would be chilling but not unexpected in such a big city if Juliet hadn't recognized every single one and been slighted by then in some way. Who is this murderer? Will Juliet be able to cure herself?

I loved the first novel in the series, The Madman's Daughter, because of it's Victorian gothic atmosphere and horror elements. This installment is no different, directly continuing the story in England after Juliet killed her father and destroyed his work. Juliet is unused to high society after spending years as a servant and the time on her father's tropical island populated by monsters. The Professor, her benefactor, dotes on her and restores her to her place in society when she was a child. Although she is physically comfortable in plush rooms and fancy dresses, she doesn't feel comfortable. She remembers having to clean and scrape for money to get by, like the servants or the pickpockets in the street that surround her.It isn't far from her mind that she could easily return to that life, but it would be even worse due to her past. The beginning of the first book had her arrested due to her defending herself against a wealthy man trying to rape her. Due to her standing at the time, it was framed as an unprovoked attack on a decent gentleman. Although at times she's a typical teenage girl, Juliet proves to be a steely and grounded protagonist with a scientific mind. She weighs the consequences and looks at the possibilities (when she's not being completely rash). Her interest in her father's dark science and doing the more evil (but effective) thing is also a part of her, which she (incorrectly) blames on her cobbled together anatomy.

As with the first novel, much of the plot revolves around a love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery and Edward Prince. I've accepted that because of the success of Twilight and The Hunger Games love triangle are the norm for young adult novels, but I don't really like it. Montgomery seems to be the safe choice, but all the negative and misogynistic elements of Victorian society are blended with him. He actually replaced Juliet as Dr. Moreau's protege because her father felt she wasn't suitable due to her gender. His penchant to hide things of her "for her own good" and his attempts to control her don't bode well for a future relationship. He also insists that her dark side side and her will to experiment with science will disappear when she is cured. Ultimately, he wants to fit her into a proper Victorian box that she simply doesn't fit in. I especially liked that Juliet didn't just lose her head when he proposed, She thought about the practical ramifications and what it meant for her. As a woman, she would be his literal property. He would have complete control over her and she is hesitant to give him or anyone else that level of control over her.

Edward, on the other hand, loves her for who she is and doesn't try to force her to do things. Unfortunately, he's also sharing a body with a monster who is also in love with her and kills without a thought. He still shares the most in common with Juliet who is also fighting her own demons and dark side and doesn't expect her to magically change. These two end up having sex in the course of the book which is pretty well handled in the moment. Juliet regrets it afterwards, which made me disappointed but I guess the love triangle would be dead if she hadn't. Heaven forbid a girl actually enjoy sex. Edward's other half is quite abusive towards her and it's uncomfortable but compelling to read. The supernatural element doesn't make the abuse any less horrible. Juliet fights back and although he's physically stronger, she isn't a damsel in distress. This dark figure emerges more and more during the end of the story when Edward can no longer hold him back. It is disappointing that she gets to choose between someone who loves the idea of her and an abuser, but maybe she'll defy expectations and choose no one because she doesn't have to in the final installment.

Her Dark Curiosity isn't as focused as the first book, but that same Victorian world with dark science mixed in is present. The world is a mash-up of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Frankenstein and it works surprisingly well together. It's kind of like Penny Dreadful for teens. The beginning takes a while to get anywhere, but it gains speed as it goes along. The ending is pretty cliffhanger-y and is presumably picked right up in the next and last installment, A Cold Legacy, which I will be reading soon.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

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