A reworking of the classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde imagines his beastly transformation is achieved at the hands of a desperate young woman in this slowly paced thriller that's steeped in historical detail.
Odile and her younger brother, Gréluchon, flee to Paris after their parents are murdered. Arriving in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War, they struggle to survive on their own. Odile is terrified for her brother, who suffers from a debilitating eye infection that has been made worse from malnourishment and living in the damp of the catacombs. Descended from a family of witches, she searches her mother’s spell books for something that might fortify her brother. At the same time, she becomes indebted to oddball Dr. Henry Jekyll, setting events into motion from which Odile cannot escape. Situating this well-known story against the backdrop of the Prussian invasion of Paris and its short governance by the Commune is conceptually interesting, but the pacing lags somewhat. In keeping with the style of the era, Odile’s narrative voice is formal, and teens that are not established historical-fiction fans may find it difficult to identify with her.
While overall appeal may be limited, it will hook patient readers by the palpable sense of foreboding established early on, and they will enjoy the gradual build of suspense in this gritty and layered novel. (Historical fiction. 12-18)