by Jessica Day George
3 1/2 stars
Jessica Day George, you had me at 1890s Romania.
I think the best way to describe this might be The Hunchback Assignments meets Jane Austen. And just that comparison rocks. It has a lot of the same elements of Hunchback Assignments, like the spying and the secret organizations and the time period and the mysterious elements, albeit of a more fantastical nature, but definitely told from a girl's perspective. There's mention of dresses and petticoats, balls and social calls, and of course a nice selection of suitors to choose from. But these are not damsels in distress. Don't make that mistake or else... Well.
Now, I did think that this story had a slow start. For almost the first half of the book, we're tugged along with the main characters on this mystery about their family. I mostly thought it was long because, to the reader, the mystery isn't necessarily that big of a mystery. You figure out the nature of it long before our dual heroines LouLou and Dacia do, so I got a little impatient.
That being said, I really did like this story. A historical fiction. Set in Romania. And you know it's got something to do with you-know-who. The concept is clever and it's a unique twist on a tale that's seen a lot of revisions and retellings.
I loved the tone of the writing. We switch between the perspectives of Dacia and LouLou throughout and, like I said, it feels so Jane Austen. The temperament of girls in the time period was nailed. And not just talking about potential suitors and dresses, but in how they handle unexpected situations. With calm and decorum -and of course a cup of tea.
I enjoyed this story -it's very fun- but I would be even more excited to see a sequel. Things end in such a magnificent place that I want to know what happens next. Plus, I only felt I really got to know the characters near the end of the story. This wasn't due to poor writing or characterization at all. Get that idea out of your head. For some characters, we just don't learn their full role or purpose until the climax approaches; with others, like our dual heroines LouLou and Dacia, what they experience is character development. These characters I liked from the get-go, but where they eventually end up I absolutely love. I want more of them. So while this was a good book, and a book I would highly recommend, I think a continuance of it could be even better.
As a caution, there is some mature content in this book -nothing risque, but one of the villains does threaten to force himself on our heroines, so this book is definitely for older readers.
I loved the story and I loved the characters and I really hope I get to see what happens to them, say, a year or two down the road.