Review: The Hypnotic City by Andrea Berthot

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Overall Score: 9/10

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Mystery, Steampunk

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: August 1, 2016

Source: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher

Book Summary (From GoodReads)

Philomena Blackwell survived a city plagued with monsters, the gilded cage of high society, and the rule of a heartless man… and she aims to leave it all behind.

It’s 1905, and London has finally been freed from Henry Jekyll’s terrible legacy – its people cured, its thirteen-year quarantine lifted. The world is waiting, and for a girl who dreams of being its most dazzling star, what could be more enticing than the bright lights of New York City?

She is drawn across the ocean like a moth to a flame, her heart set on proving that while she may be small on the outside, her soaring talent eclipses even Manhattan’s towering skyline. When she lands a big break, it seems as if the city is ready to fall under her spell – just as she seems to be falling for a handsome young stage manager. But is it her stage presence mesmerizing the audience, or something more sinister behind the scenes?

Philomena has always relied on her fierce will and fiery heart, but a new and more terrible danger lurks in the shadows of Broadway’s bright lights, and even a mind as determined as hers may not be immune to its seductive, insidious pull…

Both fans of The Heartless City and new readers alike will enjoy this stand-alone / spin-off tale of Philomena’s adventures on stage – and in love – in NYC.

Review

Note: While this is the second book in The Gold and Gaslight chronicles, it can be read as a standalone. All relevant information from the first book covered in the second.

Philomena was one of my favorite characters in The Heartless City so I was quite excited to read this book. Philomena, a talented young singer and actress, has left London with her maid, Jennie, after the quarantine was lifted. She dreams of performing on Broadway in New York and has faith that she will be discovered soon after setting foot in the United States. The novel opens with her and Jennie arriving in New York (and being just a tad overwhelmed by the city).

The book then skips forward a bit and we see how, even though not everything has gone their way, both girls have made lives for themselves in the city. Jennie is engaged to a charming young man and Philomela has a steady job performing in a show, although she isn’t the star. When she isn’t even allowed to audition for one of the prestigious theaters because of her short stature, Philomena stands up for herself.

The initial interactions between Philomena and Jamie were wonderful to see. She stands up for herself and calls him out on his bad behavior. Neither of them is perfect and they do get into some arguments throughout the book. That honestly made the romance more believable to me as they saw each other’s flaws and loved each other anyway.

As to the setting, this novel truly captures New York and the dreamers that inhabit it. The beginning portion of the novel was as much a love letter to the city as it was setting the stage for the second half of the book. From the men selling their sketchy wares on the street to the food, the city came alive as the author brought both the good and the bad to life.

When Philomena joined Tom Casey’s theater, I had absolutely no idea what would come next. There were just enough hints dropped that I knew something was off about him and his establishment. The author built the suspense throughout the rehearsals for the play and through slow revelations about the true nature of Casey. The ultimate revelation of both what was happening and then the ending were unexpected and shocking.

I absolutely tore through this book and I will be anxiously awaiting the next installment in this series. This story is a slightly dark read with an enjoyable romance, an intriguing mystery, and a wonderful setting.

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