From the very first page, Jessica Verday’s Of Monsters and Madness reminded me of Megan Shepherd’s The Madman’s Daughter*:

I have been witness to grim scenes as Mother’s assistant, but nothing could prepare me for this. Even the horse head in Father’s laboratory was not as upsetting. Only moments ago, this poor person was alive. And now, to be like this…

I spared you the description of the intestines, which was especially good. And by “especially good,” I mean especially gross. While I wasn’t entirely won over by her book, Verday proved even just on that first page that she has the key to the gothic genre—the juxtaposition of the beautiful and the grotesque—DOWN.

But back to the similarities between Of Monsters and Madness and The Madman’s Daughter: Both books are about a heroine who goes to live with her father after more than a decade of separation; both books are about a heroine who is the daughter of a mad scientist who lost his medical license due to researching “unnatural things”; both books are about a heroine whose interest in the sciences draws flack for being unfeminine; and due to unusual childhoods, each heroine is more independent, more willing to speak her mind, and more likely to take action than is considered proper by “polite” society. The Madman’s Daughter is a straight-up retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau and its sequel, Her Dark Curiosity, is based on The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Of Monsters and Madness is more a mash-up of Edgar Allan Poe’s oeuvre with Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with bonus shades of Bluebeard.

The Poe storyline in Of Monsters and Madness certainly ups the Fun Factor—in the Author’s Note, Verday got points for making me laugh out loud with the line ...please do forgive me, Poe enthusiasts, for insinuating that he was a serial killer—but while it’s an entertaining and enjoyable read, it’s not a particularly memorable one. The secondary characters—even Poe himself, who is both romantic interest and villain—aren’t all that fleshed out; there are some atmospheric pockets, but it doesn’t have the consistency of Darkness and Doom that makes for a truly hair-raising gothic; there’s some occasionally awkward phrasing and delivery (“In yer armoire hangs a cloak with a pocket.”); and overall, it reads more like a strong early draft than an awesome final one.

Continue reading >


Although I’m not particularly invested in the characters or the love story, I am curious to see where Verday will go next with the series—the scarring on the Annabel Lenore Lee’s neck is as-yet unexplained (which seems odd, in that she doesn’t even seem to be curious about how/where she got them)—and to see what other stories she’ll throw into the mix.


*Which, by the way, I liked MUCH more than the Kirkus reviewer did.

If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.