Title: The Heartless City
Author: Andrea Berthot
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Source: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Henry Jekyll was a brilliant doctor, a passionate idealist who aimed to free mankind of selfishness and vice. He’s also the man who carelessly created a race of monsters.
Once shared secretly among the good doctor’s inner circle, the Hyde drug was smuggled into mass-production – but in pill form, it corrupted its users at the genetic level, leaving them liable to transform without warning. A quarter of the population are now clandestine killers – ticking bombs that could detonate at any given moment.
It’s 1903, and London has been quarantined for thirteen years.
Son of the city’s most prominent physician and cure-seeker, seventeen-year-old Elliot Morrissey has had his own devastating brush with science, downing a potion meant to remove his human weaknesses and strengthen him against the Hydes – and finding instead he’s become an empath, leveled by the emotions of a dying city.
He finds an unlikely ally in Iris Faye, a waitress at one of the city’s rowdier music halls, whose emotions nearly blind him; her fearlessness is a beacon in a city rife with terror. Iris, however, is more than what she seems, and reveals a mission to bring down the establishment that has crippled the people of London.
Together, they aim to discover who’s really pulling the strings in Jekyll’s wake, and why citizens are waking up in the street infected, with no memory of ever having taken the Hyde drug…
Heart-eating monsters, it turns out, are not the greatest evil they must face. (Source: Goodreads)
In this riff on Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Iris Faye and Elliot Morrissey are two people with special powers – powers that prove useful to them in a city overrun with Hyde monsters. Iris wants nothing more than to bring down the government of London, who she suspects are keeping the city filled with the monsters to maintain control, and her powers – similar to a Hydes – keep her safe in the city. Elliot is an empath and wants to drown out the emotions he can feel from other people. Together they’ll have to save themselves and their city from the plague of Hydes.
The Heartless City was an entertaining read, with alright characters, it was also a little convoluted and poorly paced, which makes reviewing the book a little difficult for me. To top it all off, I’m just not sure I find the whole Jeckyll and Hyde deal interesting enough, it’s maybe just not my thing. I think this is a well written novel for the most part, I think it’s a good teen read for people who like monster stories, love stories, and period pieces set in Victorian London.
I found The Heartless City entertaining for the most part. I thought Berthot developed an interesting idea, something a little unexpected – I’ve personally never read a YA take on Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. I think Berthot made some interesting changes and developed really well beyond the original story, which was fantastic for me and I think there was some good world building involved. The trouble I think was that there was a lot of exposition very early on, and it all felt a little convoluted. It was all a lot to take in at once, so I actually had to take a break and think it all over, it didn’t feel like I could just accept it all in one go, which was disappointing for me. I liked all the stuff with the Hyde monsters, I don’t think there were enough action scenes with monsters that are meant to be so prevalent in the city. I think there could have been way more focus on the Hyde stuff than there really turned out to be in the end.
I think the characters were okay, I don’t really think there was much depth to them. Beyond Elliot’s obvious empathy through his powers he didn’t seem particularly empathetic towards anyone else. The powers were really a plot device to allow for some omniscient narration for the most part. I didn’t really care about anyone particularly much. I think Philomena was probably my favourite character because she seemed the most well rounded out of the group. There was a lot of time spent making kind of forced love connections between Elliot and Iris, and Andrew and Cambrian, I didn’t care for most of this because it detracted from the actually interesting plot stuff for me. The romance just wasn’t interesting and didn’t feel natural it felt a little like “there needs to be a romance”, when really one could have developed a little more through the actually body of the action.
There are some pretty serious pacing issues with this book. The book introduces a lot of stuff very early on. We learn about Dr. Jeckyll, the Hyde serum, the political situation in London, several characters who we focus on intermittently, and then it kind of ignores a lot of that action for most of the middle to develop a romance between our two leads and then suddenly we’re back at the Hyde stuff in full force, very quickly. The weird pacing meant that my interest really started to wane a bit through the middle of the book, and the ending wrapped up so quickly I just felt frustrated. So much time was wasted on romance it just led to nowhere for me.
There were some problems with the writing that were noticeable. The worst offender being the constant repetition of phrases to describe emotions. If a huge focus of your book is going to be emotions, the language needs to be a little more flowery and colourful, things cannot constantly just be “fire” and “flush”, it gets dull fast. The whole empath thing was such a wasted plot device, it was there to make us inside everyone’s head without being inside everyone’s head and it was so glaringly wasted and boringly used. These kinds of mistakes didn’t take too much away from the reading experience though.
I think this is a cool read for fans of YA monster books, and especially if you’re trying to find a Jeckyll and Hyde adaptation check this one out! This is going to be a series I believe, which I think is unnecessary because it wrapped up so neatly, and maybe because I didn’t care about any of the characters enough.