At 702 pages — nearly twice the length of its predecessor in the series — European Travel For The Monstrous Gentlewoman is an unfortunately ungainly novel. Whereas The Strange Case Of The Alchemist’s Daughter was a sprightly reimagining of classic monstrous tales especially as they pertained to the much abused daughters of horrible men, ETftMG is an overlong journey through Europe that had me as fatigued as travel-weary Mary Jekyll by the end.
It continues the narrative begun in TSCofAD, and while it’s hard to be churlish at the great slate of characters introduced as a natural progression of the story given the richness of the source material, it’s almost too much. I had quite a bit of literary fangirl squee at all the semi-obscure references brought to life here, and can see why they’re all pertinent to this particular plot line, but I felt that the narrative dragged far more than it should have. As much as I appreciated the attention to place and historical detail, it felt a bit too vacation slideshow for my tastes. I do feel that loads of set pieces could have been cut or spliced together to make this book feel like less of a slog. I was also not a fan of Theodora Goss’ action scenes, which felt disjointed and, worse, unimmersive.
However, I did continue to enjoy the distinct voices of each member of the Athena Club, particularly in the interjectory passages, tho I scoff at the idea of Mary not knowing that the Greek goddess Athena kept an owl as a familiar. I also enjoyed the way Ms Goss mulls over the costs of scientific progress (tho honestly one would think that voluntary experimentation should be the rule when it comes to human testing) as well as morality in general, particularly in regard to Mary/Diana and Justine’s musings on guilt and responsibility.
Overall, I’m hoping this is a case of sophomore slump and the next book will return to the sparkling form of TSCofAD. Tho I haven’t the slightest idea for the basis of Alice/Lydia, and would welcome direction in that regard.