Advance Review: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

August 17, 2009 Books, Reviews 6

cache_505946313The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

Preorder your copy: at Powells.com or at Amazon.com

Release Date: 25 August 2009

Description: What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…. (from leannareneehieber.com)

The Fangirl’s Review: A

The Strangely Beautiful Tale… is certainly strangely beautiful, and I had to force myself to put the book down so I could sleep. Set in an alternate Victorian England, where spirits roam the streets and six chosen people safeguard the mortal world from dangerous ghosts, this book is richly imagined and constructed, with fascinating characters and an engrossing storyline.

I think my favorite thing about this book is the incredible romantic tension that develops between meek Percy and arrogant Alexi. Have any of you seen North and South (the BBC production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, not that Civil War miniseries from the 80s)? You know how the tension between Margaret and Mr. Thornton builds and builds and builds with no release in sight, and when there finally is a release, you’re practically panting even if it’s just a kiss? Well, I spent every page of this book from the moment Percy met Alexi in that state. It’s really a fantastic take on the destined-to-be-together storyline; I was surprised that I liked it so much because I usually don’t care for that type of romance. It just worked really well in this context.

Percy is an unusual heroine for me to like, because she is very meek and uncertain. I lean toward the tough chicks, and while Percy does have incredible inner strength, she is very timid on the outside. There were a few times when I wanted to shout at her to stand up for herself, but she does come through when it really matters (and I cheered). Alexi, on the other hand, pushes all of my brooding hero buttons. I have to admit that I pictured the aforementioned Richard Armitage as Alexi; a Twitter conversation with the author revealed that she imagined Alexi as Alan Rickman when she started writing the novel. Either way, he’s brooding and isolated, having devoted his entire life to seeking out the Prophecy revealed to him when he was a teenager, and he’s the perfect picture of a lonely romantic hero.

I think the thing I found most fascinating about this novel was the mythology that surrounds the characters. Alexi and his five companions were chosen as young teenagers to serve as the Guard, and they were granted specific powers that would allow them to police London and send dangerous spirits packing. Alexi has spent the twenty years since that time struggling to balance his beliefs as a scientist with the memory of the goddess who appeared to them through a portal in the air. I won’t give away the mythology itself, but it was well-integrated into the story and was definitely an interesting twist on what could have been a simpler ghost story.

The only complaint I have is that the end seemed to happen really swiftly, and I wish it had been drawn out a bit more. But otherwise, I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend it. It’s being released on Tuesday, August 25th, so be sure to click those links up there and preorder your copy! And be sure to let me know what you think of it!