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Monday, August 24, 2009

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


by Leanna Renee Hieber


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….

Review -

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker was an exquisite start to what surely will be an engaging series. Leanna Renee Hieber has created an enticing novel by blending together a combination of historical characters, potent paranormal elements and a sweet, satisfying romance. Add a dash of mythology to the mix and you’re ready to serve up a captivating gothic fantasy that should appeal to both adult readers and a mature teen audience.

The six members of The Guard (Alexi, Josephine, Jane, Rebecca, Michael, Elijah) were all summoned as teens by an otherworldy spirit. Their talents were indispensable in exterminating unruly ghosts and ridding the world of the forces of Hell. When Percy Parker came along, they were in desperate need of finding their Seventh, as was foretold by the Prophecy. Battling evil within the city was taking a great toll on The Guard, especially with The Ripper at bay. But could shy, meek Percy really be the one destined to fufill the Prophecy?

As the leader of The Guard, Alexi Rychman was quite caustic and imposing, but I was intrigued by the confidence and leadership qualities he asserted within this novel. I could understand why Percy would be attracted to him. At times, however, Percy seemed so meek to me that I did feel somewhat frustrated with her, and often wondered what exactly Alexi saw in her. With that being said, I must point out that Percy's loneliness was so palpable, that I could still sympathize with her charcter. It would've been so difficult for a young woman such as herself trying to navigate throughout Victorian London. When you add in the fact that she saw ghosts and had to constantly worry about being labeled as "mad", it was no wonder she had such shaky self esteem.

Leanna Renee Hieber has said this novel was nine years in the making, and all her efforts researching and perfecting the book become real apparent upon examining the quality of her writing. The old fashioned formality of the language contrasted perfectly against the gothic atmosphere of Victorian London. I really felt like I was being lured into the novel to wander around Athens Academy with Percy and Alexi, witness to the strange paranormal happenings and the slow, sweet awakening of their budding romance.

It was not surprising to learn that Hieber comes from a theatre background either, something which in my opinion, really assisted her in being able to bring this novel to life so vividly. I kept picturing the scenes as if they were being staged in a play-- dark, spooky creatures battling against the Guard on cobblestone streets with Percy at the epicenter- a pale light shining through the darkness. Unrequited love and differentiating interpretations of the Prophecy added some great tension to the novel as well, and kept my heart pounding. I will definitely be anxious to read the second installment in this series.
For another perspective on the novel, check out this review done over at Book Reviews by Jess. Jess' review was how I discovered this great book--thanks Jess!


4.5 butterflies

Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Leisure Books (August 25, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0843962968
ISBN-13: 978-0843962963
Buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, etc

Award-Winning author Leanna Renee Hieber grew up in rural Ohio where childhood memories were full of inventing elaborate ghost stories. Graduating with a BFA in Theatre from Miami University, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London helped set the course for her books.

While performing in the regional theatre circuit, her short plays such as Favorite Lady, were published, produced, won awards and continue to be produced in colleges and festivals around the country. She has adapted works of Victorian literature for the professional stage.

She hit the fantasy fiction scene with her novella Dark Nest, winning the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER is the first in her Strangely Beautiful series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels published by Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing.

Visit the author at her Official Website and Blog
Read Four Excerpts HERE


Jess (The Cozy Reader) said...

One of my favorite reads this year! Great review!

Sara said...

I'm definitely looking into this book - it sounds amazing! Thanks for the review!

Miss Eliza said...

And now for something completely different...I gave you an award! Come stop by my blog, Strange & Random Happenstance to get it!

Jazz said...

I can't wait to read this book. I'm saving it for October when I have my personal spooky books marathon. Have you ever read Dracula? I read it for the first time this year, and my class paid a lot of attention to the Victorian ideals presented in it. The perfect woman was a sort of meek and innocent angel who needed a man to protect and shelter her. So I can see why Alexi would be attracted to Percy in that context.

Book Butterfly (Kim) said...

Hi Jazz--I haven't read Dracula since I was a teenager--that's a really valid point- thanks for the insight.