5 out of 5 stars
Wow. When I requested this book from Edelweiss, I thought it looked good – pretty cover, interesting sounding plot – but I didn’t think I’d enjoy it as much as I did, particularly as it was my first steampunk novel. As it is labelled as a Young Adult book, I was expecting the writing style to be fairly basic, as it tends to be in YA fiction. Cornwall, however, goes all out and writes the novel as if she herself was writing in nineteenth century England.
Where YA novels tend to base most of their description around characters (particularly of the male persuasion), this book contains many beautiful descriptions of the environment: the dark, eerie Yorkshire moors; the dingy alleyways of Victorian London. I don’t know if it helped that I’ve visited Whitby and the Yorkshire moors myself, so I can imagine them more vividly, but I think even without visiting them Cornwall’s descriptions do them justice. The writing flowed so well, and I think it is the use of words and diction contemporary with the setting of the story that really lifts it above all those other paranormal YA novels out there.
Rather than being a straight retelling of the Dracula story by Bram Stoker, Cornwall instead chooses to directly involve Stoker himself, which works really well. I find that when historical or famous figures are included in stories, as long as they are not too out of character, it makes the story more relatable, by presenting the reader with characters they are already familiar with. For example, we also get to meet William Gladstone, former Prime Minister, and Queen Victoria.
Speaking of characters, Lucy as a character is a wonderful protagonist, particularly as a female lead in a YA paranormal novel. She is strong, and barely phased by her transformation. She just gets on with it, she doesn’t moan, whine or cry. Although there is some romance, it doesn’t completely consume her and she never gets soppy. She’s smart, quick-witted and generally a strong character all round, and manages to avoid cliches. We need more female protagonists like her.
Now as for the downsides of the book: I managed to guess one character’s secret very early on into the story, which made the big reveal much less of an impact – I feel that perhaps Cornwall left too many clues for that one. I have to say, the ending was a bit of an anti-climax and over rather soon – but I felt the rest of the story kept it up at a five-star rating. There were also quite a few spelling and grammar mistakes, but as I read an ARC I’m hoping that they’ll all be corrected in the final edition.
I highly recommend this one, even if you haven’t read Dracula! (I haven’t… better get on it.) It is beautifully written, and a fun read – especially if you want a more ‘intelligent’ feeling YA novel. If the steampunk element is putting you off, I would say don’t let it – steampunk is only a very light part of the novel.
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Edit: 13/08/2013 – so apparently my review was featured on Edelweiss, and I only just noticed! Yay!