Publisher: Leisure Books
Source of my copy: I bought it
Cover Image from GoodReads
What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Hidden in the dark heart of Victorian London, the Romanesque school was dreadfully imposing, a veritable fortress, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met its powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadows, of the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She saw simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gift. This arched stone doorway was a portal to a new life, to an education far from what could be had at a convent-and it was an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death...
I first heard of this book when a few blogs I follow reviewed it last year and it pique my interest. I went on the author's website and when she said it's a cross between Harry Potter and a Jane Austen novel, and being a die-hard fan of both, I had to read it then. This book is different and a welcome respite from all the urban fantasy I've been reading lately. I have to say, though, I see it more of a cross between Jane Eyre and Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy--but that's just me and I like this book just the same.
Yes, it was well-written. I love the whole feel of it and definitely transported me to the Victorian Era--I can almost feel the fog, the shadows, the wet cobblestones under my feet when reading it. I also like the ghost busters and magic aspect of the book--six friends (called The Guard) given the task of keeping the ghostly population of Victorian London well in hand while they await for their prophesied seventh member--which makes for an interesting story. I liked the friendship the six group members had and their banter and the love (or unrequited love) between them. I did want to shake them for their stubbornness in not even considering that Percy could be the seventh but other than that I liked them, especially Elijah and Josephine.
However, I wasn't sure what to make of our heroine Percy Parker in the beginning. She was an oddity in that she was an albino and painfully shy and timid. I don't mind shy and timid heroines, but her cowering, whimpering, apologetic attitude and basically lack of self-confidence annoyed me a little, especially when she is around the broody and mysterious hero Professor Alexi Rychman who does a lot of pacing, prowling, stalking about in his long, dark coat. I don't know what I feel about him either because I feel like he could have been... for the lack of a better word, nicer to Percy in the beginning. But I guess without his pushing her, she wouldn't have grown as a character and gain that self-confidence in the end. Despite my minor annoyances between these two characters, there were a lot of lovely moments between the two of them (my favorite being Alexi teaching Percy how to waltz) and I do like their love story. I thought it sweet and I feel Alexi and Percy balance each other out. The characters of Percy, the swooning heroine and Alexi, the dark and brooding hero, are definitely classic Gothic novels characters.
There were a lot of ghostly action in this book and I gave a sigh of relief when The Guard finally recognized Percy as their seventh and not the evil Ms. Linden. I'm very interested in reading the next book of the series and see what comes next for Percy now that she's with Alexi and unquestionably the seventh member of The Guard. Percy grew as a character in this book and I'd love to see her grow more and evolve in the next book as she comes into her power. Maybe in the next book, we'll also see a change in Alexi? Percy did soften him towards the end of Strangely Beautiful and I want to see more of that change. I give this book 4 stars (see our rating system here) and recommend it to those looking for a good classic Gothic/paranormal read. I am going to be handing over this book to Leslie to see what she thinks of it--this book can pass as a young adult book.
I have to include this picture of Percy I found on the author's website. At first I thought it was a painting but believe it or not, that's a picture of the author dressed as Miss Percy Parker for Halloween! Awesomeness!! Click on the picture for a larger image.
**Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money. My review is based on my own experiences with the book and only share my honest, unbiased opinions. I am NOT promoting or discouraging anyone from purchasing and reading this book--whether I liked or disliked it. PLEASE use this blog only as a source and not the definite answer to your inquiries.**