Historical Fiction | 256 pages | 05.09.2019 | Flame Tree Press
This book is an homage to some of our most beloved Gothic writers and their contemporaries. We obviously have Stoker and Wilde, but we also hear about an aunt named Agatha, Walt Whitman is mentioned on several occasions, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry play (see what I did there?) major parts, and Robert Rosevelt wields his Gatlinburg cannon just to name a few. The story of Stoker and Wilde spans many years. They battle paranormal beings such as werewolves and vampires. Their adventure comes to a crescendo when they encounter a dark cult trying to take over London and the world. What can they do to save the day?
The book gave me two things I will remember: nostalgia for great books like Stoker’s Dracula (one of my all-time favorites) and hilarious banter between Stoker and Wilde. Their love-hate relationship is portrayed wonderfully and gave me a few good chuckles. I also enjoyed discovering the many nods to writers, book titles, story plots, and historical events. I am sure I did not recognize them all. This novel was filled to the brim with them. The actual tale is put together from various diary entries, letters between friends, and annotations by a fictional fellowship called The White Worm Society, which is a secret organization to keep dark and sinister forces at bay. I thought this medium is quite smart as we could get insights from distinct viewpoints and get to know many different characters on a more intimate basis.
Sadly, this is the limit of what I liked about this book. First of all, for some reason, it felt very long. I am not sure why, but it seemed I was reading a 100o-page tome rather than a 250-page novel. I kept thinking I surely must be done soon and then looked down to where I was in the book and it still would say 20%! The only reason I can think of is that banter between Stoker and Wilde, letters from Ellen/Henry/Florence/Roosevelt/you name it to their friends, and diary entries eventually just become quite repetitive and made me lose all sense of direction where I was in the novel. Secondly, the plot quickly crossed from a sarcastic take of 19th century England to cheesy. I found myself bored and annoyed quite often. Yes, we get it, this or that vampire or werewolf is bad but then Stoker and Wilde (through barely any cunning doing of their own) finish the job. Thirdly, why and how is it possible that the two main protagonists remain so dense after all their dark encounters with paranormal creatures?! Do they not learn? Do they really think this last kill was ending the thread to society when NO SIGNS pointed that way other than the death of yet another vampire minion of the Black Bishop? Do you think the Black Bishop, this elusive foe, would be so easily defeated the first time you encounter him? And that brings me to my last point. I don’t think it was meant to be so easy for me to figure out who the Black Bishop actually is, but I had my suspicions instantly when I encountered him/her for the first time. It would’ve been a much more suspenseful read had I not known this part. Solely Stoker and Wilde were surprised by the reveal of this villain. And that was only possible because they both remained naive and blind throughout their journey.
All in all, this is nostalgic read to pass the time but I doubt it will make an impact other than that.
I would like to thank NetGalley, the publisher and the author for my advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.