Thursday 22 October 2015

Clare Reviews: The Heartless City by Andrea Berthot

The Heartless CityTitle: The Heartless City
Author: Andrea Berthot
Pages: 216
Format: E-book
Source: Received from the publisher via Netgalley
Rating: 4/5
Blurb: 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. 

"No concoction of chemicals can right the world's wrongs. Evil and injustice can only be conquered by human action, by people strong and courageous enough to fight for what is right."

I should start by admitting that I have never read The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, so I can't really comment on any similarities with regards to that element. However, this book takes place thirteen years after Dr Jekyll created the serum and he is dead before the story even begins so I didn't feel like I lost anything.

The biggest strength to this story is the characters. I thought they were all so well written and, for the most part, really likable. Elliot may be one of my favourite male characters of all time and I wish I knew more people like him because he was an absolute gem! Because he feels everything those around him feel he is very sympathetic and understanding but I think he would probably have been like that even without the potion that gave him the powers of an empath. He was such a fundamentally good person, although like everyone he feels anger. He just chooses to be good. Iris was also a great character, usually she would be my favourite, the awesome no-nonsense heroine but Elliot just stole my heart too much! The other side characters were amazing as well and I came to care for them a lot, Cam and Andrew and Philomena especially.

There were two sets of romantic relationship in this book. The first of which was Elliot and Iris. I liked their relationship in some ways but it did feel a little too much like insta-love for me (although I loved both Elliot and Iris fairly instantly so who am I to judge) and there just wasn't enough tension in it, which is what I usually prefer. However, if you don't mind fast moving romances then they did have quite a sweet one. The second romance, and my favourite, involves spoilers. So I can't talk about it really, it's best for you to discover it on your own. But I absolutely loved it and I thought they, as a couple, just worked so well.

This is quite a dark book, not necessarily in plot, although it does get darker towards the end. But there is a menacing, claustrophobic feel to the London of this book. They're closed off in the city with Hydes around them and the Lord Mayor banned all things art and music so there is a very depressed feel, especially to the first half of the book. In the second half of the book the plot moves to the palace and the characters are in more danger in some ways but the threat of the Hydes takes a back seat. I did like the Hydes as an idea and I loved that they weren't necessarily considered evil, since this is a power they have no control over you do gain some sympathy for them over the course of the book.

I would say that the plot was a little slow moving for roughly the first two thirds of the book. There is a lot of character development and the atmosphere was great but I didn't find that I was fully dragged into the story and I didn't struggle to put it down. However the last section had me on the edge of my seat and I actually gasped out loud at one point.

If you like dark historical stories then I would definitely recommend this. The story just felt so complete and I really liked the ending and where all the characters were in their lives. I do know that there is a companion novel which I definitely will be reading, that follows Philomena in the future. I loved Philomena although she only played quite a small role in this book so I am definitely looking forward to reading more of her!

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