Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Title: Spectacle
Written by: Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Published: February 12, 2019 by Tor Teen (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris. 

 Paris, 1887. 

 Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day's new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered--from the perspective of the murderer himself. 

When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie's search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie's strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer's identity--and she'll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.

You know when there is a YA historical mystery I'm not going to be far behind wanting to read it. Especially one with fantasy elements and one set in Belle Epoque Paris. This is such a me book. Which is why I was so thankful to Alyssa (aka WiththeBanned) for sharing her ARC with me. And while this book wasn't perfect it was engaging and compulsively readable.

My favorite thing about this book was the setting. I like historical fiction and because of that I read a lot of it. The best ones do a really good job of establishing time and place. This was one of those books. The author clearly did her research into what life was life in Paris during the end of the 1880's. For me, Paris really came to life in this book and it had me wanting to go back to the city. I also feel like she did a great job with establishing the culture of the time for the wealthy class, with their fixation on dressing up to visit the morgue and attending seances. I even found myself wondering if there was actually a serial killer in Paris at the time because it did feel so grounded in the history. I felt like this setting was a great aspect of this book and with someone who has been wanting books set in Belle Epoque Paris, that is a definite plus.

I also really enjoyed the fantasy elements of this book. It added a great layer to not only the setting, but the plot of the book. It reminded me a lot of The Diviners series by Libba Bray. It had that same kind of vibes. It was sometimes gory and grotesque and sometimes mysterious and fantastical.  I really like that the magic had clear rules and consequences and that each person's powers were different and that they were connected to the individual. What I really like is that it was grounded in science and history. The experiments that lead to the magic seemed like the kind of thing that someone would actually have done. It felt possible which made me enjoy it even more.

However, I wasn't totally impressed by the plot development and pacing. I am a plot-driven reader so a strong plot is very important to me, especially when it comes to mysteries. I like my mysteries to be complex and solvable. I want to be able to solve them along with the reader. Here I felt like this was the kind of mystery where they didn't want you to solve anything. They wanted to just surprise and take you for a ride with interesting twists and turns. Which is fine, and definitely what this book did, but that's not the kind of book that I enjoy. I wish it was more of a detective novel. But instead it just felt a little bit disconnected where a big reveal was then followed up with a slower sections where things would drag until the next twist. If there was more of a slow build up to a big reveal I think I would have enjoyed the plot more.

The characters too fell a little flat for me. I did like the main character of Nathalie. I feel like she was probably the most interesting character. She's one of those historical fiction heroines who is a bit ahead of her time and wants to be something that society doesn't really accept her as because she is a woman. A good amount of this book is her figuring out exactly who she wants to be and not caring about what society says about it and that is something I will always get behind. But the rest of the characters didn't make a great impression. This is the kind of book where you very easily could have a had a squad behind you with Simone, Christophe, and Louis but they were just tangentially involved. But this book was much about Nathalie and she really carried it.

All in all, I thought this was a good read. It's fast and engaging with a good historical setting, an interesting magical system, and a plot full of twists and turns. It's not the most complex mystery I have read and the pacing was a bit off but I still really enjoyed it. It was a book I was really looking forward to and it met my expectations.

I give Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of historical mysteries and want a quick and interesting read I would check this one out from your local library. It didn't blow me away but I definitely enjoyed it.

 Have you read Spectacle? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

1 comment:

  1. I’m glad you mostly liked it. I love historical fiction, so I’m glad it’s well-researched. I’m not letting myself buy it until I get my TBR under control.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!