Review | Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Summoned to her father’s home in 1820’s Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father’s assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they’re letting on.

1.5 cupcakes

Given that Annabel Lee was one of my favourite poems in high school, I was incredibly excited to read Of Monsters and Madness. Unfortunately, this retelling failed to deliver the creepy, Gothic mystery that I was expecting.

In a retelling, it is expected that authors will take certain liberties, both with characters and plot points. In this case, though, the only elements of the original Poe stories were the character names and the inclusion of his most famous lines and less-than-subtle references to his works. That’s not to say that the storyline is highly original though; in fact, the majority of the plot points were derived from Frankenstein and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As a result, the mystery (if you can call it that, since the murderer is revealed in the preface) was extremely predictable.

I wasn’t a fan of the protagonist, Annabel. She’s incredibly meek and constantly seeks the approval of her father. She’s considerate and caring, but these traits stopped being admirable when the plot became a running tally of Annabel’s acts of kindness and not a murder mystery.

The rest of the characters were just as bland – especially Annabel’s love interest, Allan. This instalove-fuelled relationship made sense given Annabel’s sheltered life and desire for affection, but the lack of chemistry made it feel contrived and unconvincing.

Overall, Of Monsters and Madness was an incredibly disappointing read. If you’re a Poe purist, you should probably avoid giving this a read.

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