Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel — A Review

Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel (2018)Honestly, to be a fly on the dining room wall of author John Kessel when in between passing the potatoes he announced to his family that his next book would be an amalgamation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. What a mischievous rogue he is. I was intrigued to discover if he could pull it off.

The story begins thirteen years after the close of Pride and Prejudice. Mrs. Bennet and her two middle daughters, Mary and Kitty, both well on their way to spinsterhood, are on holiday in Lyme Regis—that famous Dorset seaside village renowned for its large stone Cobb seawall and its deposits of ancient fossils. Mary has matured quite a bit since her sanctimonious and mortifying youth. Her interests have shifted from the pious study of doctrinal extracts and observations of thread-bare morality to a more scientific vein of natural philosophy. Her mother is still determined to see her last two daughters advantageously married and is delighted when Mary beings an acquaintance with a fellow fossil hunter, Mr. Woodleigh, who she met at the local Assembly Rooms.

Kitty, on the other hand, is bored to tears with their small social circle in Lyme and dreams of dancing in London again. On their way to meet Woodleigh for dinner, the Bennets learn that a young woman has fallen from the Cobb and seriously injured herself. Never one to suffer fools, Mrs. Bennet is quick to point out that, “No well-bred young lady should trust a man to catch her if she goes leaping from public landmarks.” Put off by Mrs. Bennet’s judgments, Mr. Woodleigh soon announces his departure. Realizing that no offer of marriage for Mary is forthcoming, Mrs. Bennet caves to Kitty’s pleas to leave, and the party soon departs for London.

Across the channel on the Continent, a Creature is in pursuit of his creator. Stowing away on a cattle boat, he crosses the ocean and arrives in London without any knowledge of the language or customs, connections or the means to find the one man who has promised to create a companion for him.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Bennet and her daughters are also in London attending the first ball of the Season where she directs her daughters attention toward rich, eligible young men with the precision of Wellington aiming “his cannon against Napoleon’s marshals in the Peninsula” Also, in attendance is the Rev. Mr. Collins, (the Odious One), a recent widow in pursuit of a reluctant Kitty Bennet, and, the reserved and brooding Mr. Victor Frankenstein, newly arrived from Switzerland. Mary is introduced to this handsome, younger man and soon they realize that they may be the only two people in the room who have a common interest in science. When Frankenstein also indecorously shares the story of the murder of his younger brother to a relative stranger, Mary is in turns drawn to, and cautious of, this enigmatic man.

Frankenstein soon discovers that the Creature has followed him to London. To avoid meeting him, he promptly departs for Scotland with his friend Henry Clerval. He knows that he must acquire the knowledge to create the monster’s mate before another member of his family dies.

Kitty’s cough develops into a troubling concern, prompting the women to return to Longbourn so she can recuperate. While at home, Mary has a serious conversation with her father who warns her of the sad fate of the female bookworm. “Beware, Mary,” he said impishly. “Too much learning makes a woman monstrous.” (foreshadowing?) While Mary realizes she is bound for spinsterhood, she knows that there is still hope for her younger, and still beautiful sister Kitty. Looking out for her, she encourages her father to let them go to Pemberley, the home of their elder sister Elizabeth in Derbyshire. He agrees, and soon she and Kitty are off in pursuit of husbands, or in the case of Mary, watching out for her impetuous younger sister.

Fate again intercedes, bringing Mary and Mr. Frankenstein together. Along the road to Scotland, he and Mr. Clerval arrive in Matlock, an ancient Roman town not far from Pemberley. Meeting at a local library and museum over a fossil unearthed in a local lead mine, they discuss Darwin’s theories of evolution and how the hand of God is everywhere. They walk with Kitty, Mr. Clerval, and Georgiana Golding nee Darcy, along the Derwent River to view the sheer cliffs along the banks. Mary observes the scenery and philosophizes on her place in the world. “These rocks, this river, will long survive us. We are here for a breath, and then we are gone. And through it all we are alone.” Frankenstein is amazed by Mary, who he thought was just another aging spinster. I, on the other hand, am remembering the, “What are men to rocks and mountains,” line in Pride and Prejudice.

Back at Pemberley, Mary asks Elizabeth if Messrs. Frankenstein and Clerval might be invited to be their guests while they are still in the area. She agrees and the gentlemen soon arrive for a short stay. At dinner, the local vicar, who was in his cups, shares a story of him interrupting grave robbers in his own churchyard. Many in attendance are shocked, not believing that such atrocities could happen in their community. (more foreshadowing?) Mr. Frankenstein is silent. The next day as Kitty and Mary are deep in conversation while walking the estate grounds, they are caught in a downpour, profoundly affecting both Kitty’s health and Mary’s trust in Frankenstein.

A Flash of lightning lit the forest, and Mary saw, beneath the trees not ten feet from them, the giant figure of a man. The lightning illuminated a face like a grotesque mask: long, thick, tangled black hair. Pale skin, milky, dead eyes beneath heavy brows. Worst of all, an expression hideous in its cold, inexpressible hunger. It was all the matter of a split second; then the light fell to shadow. (p 127)

The Creature has followed Frankenstein north and is lurking in the woods.

From its ominous opening line, “At the age of nineteen, Miss Mary Bennet had believed three things that were not true,” this Austen fan was optimistic that Kessel had taken his task of reverently setting the style and tone seriously. Combining two divergent novels—a romantic comedy and a Gothic horror—and creating a believable story from their union is an unfathomable accomplishment. As the story developed and the pages flew by, my confidence grew in Kessel’s skill as a storyteller, and as a writer.

The narrative alternates from the point of view of Mary, the Creature, and Frankenstein. Mary’s voice is in the third person, the form that Austen chose to use in her novels, and the Creature and Frankenstein’s are in the first person. At times the shift in voice by the three main characters was jolting, but I suspect that this was chosen for effect. In the first half of the novel, Austen fans will be frequently rewarded with witty, laugh out loud dialogue and enough Easter eggs from the original to keep them comfortably in situ. Kessel totally captures the characterization of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. With Mary, he has brought her out of that awkward, self-righteous persona that she was trapped in as the middle sister nobody wanted around. She is thoughtful, measured, and brave throughout Pride and Prometheus. A true heroine, surpassing even her sister Lizzy Darcy nee Bennet’s capabilities.

In the second half of the novel, Mary Shelley fans will be rewarded with a dark story deftly told. There are some twists in the plot that will really shock the tender-hearted Austen fan and delight those who are #TeamShelley. Readers from Scotland need to be forewarned bout the portrayal of Scottish hospitality, and those firmly in the Austen camp may be miffed that they do not get their Austenesque happily ever after for Mary. Kessel chose a denouement for his heroine that many will not anticipate yet was satisfying for me. The Creature and its creator land in the same icy circumstances that Shelley devised.

If you are in an adventurous mood and would like to experience lush, atmospheric, and compelling storytelling at its finest, I can highly recommend Pride and Prometheus. There are few writers who have the skill or talent to pull this type of mash-up off without making it a burlesque comedy a la Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The struggles of its characters, its themes, and its brilliant prose are nonpareil.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel
Gallery / Saga Press (2018)
Hardcover, Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (384) pages
ISBN: 978-1481481472

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Goodreads

Disclosure of Material Connection: We purchased a copy of this book for our own enjoyment. We only review products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. Autenprose.com is an Amazon Affiliate. We receive a small remuneration when readers purchase products using our links. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cover image courtesy of Gallery / Saga Press © 2018; Text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2019, Austenprose.com

The Dark Days Club (A Lady Helen Novel), by Alison Goodman – A Review

The Darck Days Club by Allison Goodman 2016 x 200From the desk of Lisa Galek:

Fantasy novels with a supernatural bent are all the rage right now. So, if you love a battle between the forces of good and evil… all set against the backdrop of the upper-crust society of 1812 London, then The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman should be on your reading list.

We meet 18-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall on the eve of her presentation to Queen Charlotte. Helen’s mother, who drowned at sea ten years before, was allegedly a traitor to England, and Helen’s current guardians—her aunt and uncle—really hope this won’t affect Helen’s chance of making a good marriage. After all, isn’t that the best that any young lady with fortune and tainted family connections can hope for?

But, Helen has other ideas. Wilder ideas. She gets the feeling she’s meant for something more than ballrooms and husband hunting. When she meets the mysterious Lord Carlston, who has quite the checkered past himself, she discovers that the growing spirit inside her actually points to the rare ability to identify and destroy a group of supernatural baddies that are overrunning England. Will Helen follow her demon-fighting destiny with Lord Carlston? Or will she resign herself to the life of a proper English wife instead?

The Dark Days Club is the first in what will be a series of novels focused on Lady Helen and her adventures in Regency London. It actually reminded me a lot of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (which actually has a Victorian spinoff of its own). The basic premise is the same—a young girl with a mysterious family history finds out she actually has the ability to fight supernatural villains. It’s miles from a Jane Austen novel, but the author does a great job of giving us the Georgian-era feel while still mixing in elements of mystery and fantasy. Continue reading

Jane Austen Lives Again, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

Jane Austen Lives Again by Jane Odiwe 2015 x 200From the desk of Katie Patchell:

What would Jane Austen say and do if she lived in the 1920s instead of the late 1700s/early 1800s? Would she wear a drop-waist dress that showed her ankles and bob her auburn hair? Would she dance the Charleston or listen to Jazz music? How would she react to being called ‘baby doll’? And would being handed into the front seat of a car by a young, eligible man just as romantic as being handed into a Regency carriage? These fascinating questions and more are imaginatively answered in Jane Odiwe’s latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, where readers—and Jane Austen herself—are transported to the chaotic, electrifying Jazz Age.

1817: After days of sickness, Jane Austen closes her eyes on this world for the last time. Or so she thinks. When she opens them again—to her, only a few moments later—her doctor informs her that he found the secret to immortal life, and the year is… Continue reading

Of Noble Family: Glamourist Histories Book 5, by Mary Robinette Kowal – A Review

Of Noble Family Mary Robinette Kowal 2015 x 200From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

I am going to miss Jane and Vincent, Mary Robinette’s heroes in her acclaimed Glamourist Histories series. Of Noble Family is the married couple’s fifth and final adventure set in an alternate Regency Britain enhanced by glamour, the loveliest system of magic I’ve encountered. But while their glamoured displays are often breathtaking, Jane and Vincent have taken ether-based illusions far beyond the ubiquitous drawing-room decorations created by accomplished young women. In previous books, they’ve found practical, if hair-raising, applications for glamour in the war against Napoleon, the Luddite riots, and an escapade involving pirates on the Mediterranean. For this last story, the couple will be off to the Caribbean.

When the book opens, Jane and Vincent have been resting after their harrowing exploits on the Italian Island of Murano and enjoying the company of Jane’s family, especially her sister Melody’s new baby boy, who is already showing a precocious ability to see inside glamoured images. But things don’t stay relaxing for long. Vincent receives a letter from his brother Richard that turns their world upside down.

The first shocking piece of news is that Vincent’s father has died of a stroke at the family estate on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Lord Verbury fled to the island in an earlier book to avoid being imprisoned for treason. Since Vincent was badly abused by his father while growing up, the death wasn’t as upsetting to him as it might be, but the bad news didn’t end there. Upon their father’s death, Vincent’s oldest brother Garland inherited the title Lord Verbury, bought himself a new barouche-landau, and then died when the vehicle overturned on the badly maintained road leading to Lyme Regis. Vincent’s middle brother, Richard, was severely injured in the accident, losing one of his feet. In his letter, Richard asks Vincent for a very large favor. Continue reading

A Jane Austen-inspired Halloween: FrankenDarcy & Fanny Price, Slayer of Vampires, by Tara O’Donnell – Preview and Exclusive Excerpt

FrankenDarcy - actor David Rintoul transformed by Bonnie Carasso

It’s Halloween today—the best day of the year to celebrate Gothic and paranormal fiction inspired by Jane Austen.

Just to put you into the spirit here is an illustration of FrankenDarcy by Bonnie Carasso, a talented graphic designer with a sense of humor. I met Bonnie in the Austenprose Facebook Group. This graphic is her cheeky interpretation of actor David Rintoul as Mr. Darcy in the 1980 BBC/PBS Pride and Prejudice mini-series doing the monster mash as Frankenstein. The inside joke is that his interpretation of Austen’s romantic icon was a bit stiff (as in dead) compared with actors Colin Firth’s (1995) and Matthew Macfayden’s (2005) versions! Continue reading

Haunting Mr. Darcy: A Spirited Courtship, by KaraLynne Mackrory – A Review

Haunting Mr. Darcy A Spirted Courtship by Karalynne Mackrory 2014 x 200From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder: 

One of the best parts about the Jane Austen fan fiction scene is its unlimited possibilities. Almost every genre and plot device has been molded and formed to accommodate the style and characters we all know and love from Austen herself. One of the more unconventional styles that have made its way into this arena is the paranormal genre. However, in all of these variations, I have yet to come across a book where ghosts have been included, until now.

Haunting Mr. Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory begins with a terrible carriage accident involving Elizabeth Bennet. Although she survives the accident, she is left in a coma and doctors are unsure as to whether she will ever regain consciousness. While she is unconscious, a curious thing happens. Her spirit parts with her physical being and is magically transported to Fitzwilliam Darcy’s London home, where we find Darcy, residing alone for the winter. As if this wasn’t enough to agitate Lizzy, Darcy does not believe that her ghost is real and instead thinks that she is a manifestation of his amorous thoughts about her. How can she possibly begin to get him to trust and believe in her if he doesn’t even believe that she is a real ghost? Somehow, Lizzy has to convince Darcy of her fate, and together they must work to get her spirit back in touch with her physical body before it’s too late. Will this even be possible with Lizzy lacking any physical properties at all? Continue reading

Guest Blog & Giveaway of Haunting Mr. Darcy – A Spirited Courtship, by KaraLynne Mackrory

Haunting Mr. Darcy A Spirted Courtship by Karalynne Mackrory 2014 x 200Please join us in celebration of the release of author KaraLynne Mackrory’s new Austenesque novel, Haunting Mr. Darcy: A Spirited Courtship, published in March by Meryton Press. 

KaraLynne has joined us to chat about her inspiration to write her book, a paranormal “what if” of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Her publisher has generously offered a giveaway chance for a paperback or digital copy to three lucky winners. Just leave a comment with this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Welcome KaraLynne.

When I first begin formulating plans for my most recent work, Haunting Mr. Darcy, I started off by considering what elements I like when reading a Jane Austen-inspired book. The number one element I came up with was bunches of Darcy and Elizabeth page time. I love to read when our hero and heroine are together a lot. From the start, this desire led me to some roadblocks. Mostly the roadblock called propriety. Historically single men and women did not spend considerable amounts of time together alone.

While letting this problem stew in my mind, a plot bunny of lunatic proportions jumped into my mind. It solved the problem while also highlighting nicely my belief that our beloved characters, Darcy and Elizabeth were destined to be together. Jane Austen could not have conceived it any other way. Continue reading

Valour and Vanity: The Glamourist Histories, Book 4, by Mary Robinette Kowal – A Review

Valour and Vanity, by Mary Roninette Kowal (2014)From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first three books of the Glamourist History series which has only gotten better as it goes on, but when I read the description of the fourth book I wasn’t positive that improving trend would continue, at least for me. Pirates? The Regency version of a heist film? Those may appeal to many but aren’t my preferred cup of tea.I love that the earlier books incorporate historic events into an alternate Regency world that shimmers with glamour–a magical art of illusion. Napoleon’s wars, the Luddite uprising, and the 1816 climate disruption are integral parts of their narratives, but the new book’s plot synopsis does not hint at a similar use of history. Still, I trust Mary Robinette Kowal’s storytelling skills so there was no way I would miss her latest. I just hoped I would love Valour and Vanity as dearly as the others.

A tip from Lord Byron sends Jane and her husband Vincent to the ruins of a Roman amphitheater where an ancient but still vibrant lion glamour roars and struts among the rubble. That beautiful lion is forever fixed in place because glamoured images made with traditional methods cannot be moved, but Jane and Vincent hope to perfect a new way of creating glamour by weaving its threads into molten glass which could then be easily transported. To that end, they are headed to the island of Murano, famous for its glass-making artistry. They have been on a mostly joyous Continental trip with the rest of Jane’s family, celebrating her sister Melody’s wedding, but Jane is glad she and Vincent will soon be alone because her mother can tend to be high strung. Sure enough, Mrs. Ellsworth musters a Mrs. Bennet worthy panic as Jane and Vincent’s ship is about to depart. She’s heard a rumor that pirates rove the Gulf of Venice! Pirates! Continue reading

Without a Summer: Glamourist Histories #3, by Mary Robinette Kowal – A Review

Without a Summer Mary Robinette Kowal 2013 x 200From the desk of Jennifer Haggerty:

When the second book in a series is even better than the first, the third book will be highly anticipated and eagerly sought. If that is not a truth universally acknowledged it is at least true for me, which is why I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Mary Robinette Kowal’s Without a Summer, the third in her Glamourist History novels set in an alternate Regency World imbued with the loveliest of magics.

The first book, Shades of Milk and Honey, contains many elements of a Jane Austen novel–charming cads, lovesick girls, silly mothers, stern suitors, devoted sisters–but also incorporates glamour, a magic art of illusion used to enhance and beautify works of art. Shades of Milk and Honey ends in marriage like Austen’s novels, but Glamour in a Glass, the second book, takes things a bit further because the story of Jane and Vincent continues as they honeymoon in Belgium and this time history gets skillfully worked into the plot. Napoleon is on the march after escaping from Elba, leading Jane and Vincent to devise practical uses for glamour so the British military can defeat his forces. The inclusion of history, the experimental uses of glamour, and the pleasure of watching Jane and Vincent grow as artisans, as individuals, and as a married couple, make Glamour in a Glass a stronger book than its predecessor. I hopefully expected Without a Summer would continue those developments. Continue reading

Project Darcy, by Jane Odiwe – A Review

Project Darcy, by Jane Odiwe (2013)From the desk of Lisa Galek:

There’s one thing that’s true about Janeites – we love a good romance. Whether it’s a couple exchanging glances nearly two hundred years ago or a modern guy and gal sharing their first kiss on the streets of London, there’s something so magical about experiencing the feeling of falling in love… even if we’re only reading about it. In her new novel, Project Darcy, Jane Odiwe combines love stories from the past and present to give us an interesting spin on the life of Jane Austen.

When Ellie Bentley agrees to volunteer for an archeological dig at the site of Jane Austen’s childhood home in Steventon Rectory, she’s looking forward to spending a nice summer with her four closest friends – Jess, Martha, Cara, and Liberty. But almost as soon as she arrives, Ellie starts to see strange things: a man who looks just like he could be the ghost of Mr. Darcy and visions of a romance that happened 200 years ago. As the days pass and Ellie learns more about the secrets of Steventon, she gets drawn deeper and deeper into the life and loves of Jane Austen. Continue reading

Giveaway Winners Announced for Steampunk Darcy

Steampunk Darcy, by Monica Fairview (2013)112 comments were left qualifying those who participated in the giveaway of two (2) paperback copies and four (4) Kindle digital copies of Steampunk Darcy. The winners drawn at random are:

2 paperback copies

  • Carol Settlage who left a comment on Oct 27, 2013
  • Maggie Griscom who left a comment on Oct 15, 2013

4 digital copies

  • Jenny who left a comment on Oct 20, 2013
  • Irene who left a comment on Oct 16, 2013
  • Eenayray who left a comment on Oct 15, 2013
  • Jo Clare who left a comment on Oct 27, 2013

Congratulations ladies! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by November 13, 2013 or you will forfeit your prize! Shipment of print books to US and UK addresses only; digital copies internationally.

Thanks to all who left comments and to author Monica Fairview for her guest blog and the giveaway copies.

Cover image courtesy of White Soup Press © 2013; text Monica Fairview © 2013, Austenprose.com

Steampunk Darcy, by Monica Fairview – A Review & Giveaway

Steampunk Darcy, by Monica Fairview (2013)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder:

I must say, out of all of the derivatives of Pride and Prejudice variations that exist in this realm (yes, also including the erotica variety), I never thought I’d come across a steampunk version. When one thinks of steampunk, one envisions gears, motors, and mechanical technology that are as far removed from the refined halls of Pemberley as one can get. However, such is the beauty of the Pride and Prejudice variation subgenre: anything that can connect to the original work, no matter how slight it may be. It is up to the reader to decide whether or not such a connection was warranted in the first place! So, it’s no surprise that I was quite intrigued when given the chance to review Steampunk Darcy by Monica Fairview. I just had to know how such juxtaposition would work out.

William Darcy has a special fondness for his ancestors, the very real Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley. Although it has been many years since they lived, Mr. Darcy comes upon a unique opportunity to immortalize their beloved Pemberley as it once was after the current version of it was destroyed during a great uprising. Now, the world that has arisen from these ashes is that of a steampunk variety, and Darcy’s Pemberley is a blank canvas he can work with to restore its former glory. He hires Seraphene Grant, an expert in restoration (who also happens to own a blimp-like airship), in order to assist with the project. Although his intentions seem genuine, Seraphene is cautious towards Darcy’s actions, and she intends to steer clear of anything that isn’t strictly related to the project. Will she be able to hold back in this new world or will Darcy’s mix of tradition and steampunk creativity get the best of her? Continue reading