Brenda Cooper

Reading Recommendation: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

I just stayed up entirely too late reading a delightful new novel by Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter.  It’s a lovely fantasy tale that begins with Mary Jekyll, the daughter of the famous Jekyll from the story of Jekyll and Hyde.  As Mary’s story progresses, she is confronted with a mystery, meets new friends and famous and beloved allies, and has grand adventures.  I don’t want to say too much about the story itself because I was so often delighted when new characters showed up, and I think you all deserve to have that unspoiled experience.

The book worked for me in three ways:

  1. The line by line writing and story is executed flawlessly.  I’m not surprised as I’ve read some of Dora’s short work and poetry, and would stop and find it all if I had time.  She is a precise writer who evokes magical worlds through high craft.
  2. Dora uses some very unconventional tools to get across the delightful people in the book – her characters occasionally interrupt the flow of the narrative in delightful ways.  I love experiments, and I found this to be a brave and effective way of doing some experimental writing in a novel.
  3. This book works as a pure adventure.  It is also a subtle commentary on the power of women, and addresses gender, fears, and female monsters. As I read, I felt that this was deliberate – it was meant to be part of the book.  But it never interfered.

I highly recommend The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, and I think everyone should go get a copy and read it!