I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London with blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching "the Chopper" could make Eliza's career—or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father's forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde.
When the Royal Society sends their enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she's a sorceress, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London's luminous, magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own.
Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free . . .
I find myself unable to discuss this book without revealing details of the ending, so be warned here in the first sentence and read no further if you are bothered by such things.
Having read the original Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde earlier this year, I was intrigued by this modern steampunk version, featuring Dr. Jekyll’s daughter, Eliza, and her alter-ego, Lizzie Hyde. Set in an electrified Victorian London, the book certainly speaks to the repression of women. Despite her education and competence, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is sidelined by the Old Boys Club amongst the constabulary, which still believes that women should be restricted to needlepoint and producing babies. As infuriated by this attitude as she is, there are no legitimate routes for a gentlewoman to protest these conditions. But as Lizzie Hyde, she unleashes her ambition, her sexuality, and her street-smarts—and sometimes Lizzie is convinced to help her solve a crime.
I appreciated the little touches—the addition of a journal of Victor Frankenstein, for example. The Royal Society as a repressive regime, persecuting renegade scientists rather than religious heretics. Eliza’s mysterious guardian, whom she meets only on his terms, never knowing what he looks like.
I sense a second book in the making, as Eliza has not made a clear decision between the potential men in her life by book’s end. Ironically, Lizzie is drawn to the Royal Society man (with secrets of his own) and Eliza is lured by the criminal whom she saved from the gallows.
Playful and easy to read, I would recommend it to fans of steampunk and of the Jekyll & Hyde story.