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I Belong

Review: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mademoiselle Odile by James Reese

TitleThe Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mademoiselle Odile

AuthorJames Reese

Genre: YA Historical/Paranormal

Series: Shadow Sisters (Book 1)

Publication Date: April 10, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages

ISBN-10: 1596436840 (Macmillan)

ISBN-13: 978-1596436848 (Macmillan)

Reviewed by: Macie


Paris. 1870. A young woman named Odile is fighting to survive on the blood-soaked streets in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War. Luckily, Odile finds an advantage in a bizarre birthright. She is descended from the Cagots, a much-despised race of peasants whose women were reputed to be witches. Were they, in fact?

This is the question Odile must answer about both her ancestors and herself. Meanwhile, a young Doctor Henry Jekyll, trapped in Paris himself, becomes very interested in the strange, transformative salts Odile is using to save her sickly brother. She needs the doctor’s help if she and her brother are to survive, but what price will she be forced to pay for it?

The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mademoiselle Odile is a prequel of sorts to Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novella, imaging how a young Henry Jekyll first became Edward Hyde, the horror who has haunted readers since his first appearance in print one hundred and twenty-five years ago.

Quick & Dirty: A new character is added to the Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde outfit when Odile Ricau retells how her family secret lead toDoctor Henry Jeckyll first transforming into Mister Hyde.

Opening Sentence: The two men mistook me for dead; but I was very much alive. And regrettably so.


The Review:

The first thing I must mention is that I had to look up her name pronunciation on a translator application because I kept reading it like crocodile instead of daffodil without the “daff.” Anyway, overall the book had a slow start, a sloppy middle, and a kind of hazy ending. The book starts with a sad recounting that establishes our narrator as Odile Ricau, a former homeless orphan living on the streets of war torn 1870 Paris and the time she spent with Doctor Henry Jekyll.

Odile and her brother Greluchon are homeless and orphaned after their parents were killed far away from Paris where they currently live. Odile experiments with their family secret in an attempt to heal her sick brother who is wasting away from hunger and sickness. Her brew mishap in the zoo causes Henry Jekyll and his manservant Poole to be interested in what the young woman was capable of, which leads her to ask for the doctor’s help in curing her brother.

Jekyll is British, but in France during wartime because he was disgraced for his unorthodox scientific opinions and experiments. They bond as Jekyll tries to diagnose Greluchon and Odile experiments more with her family craft. We find out that Jekyll knows about Odile’s salts and he steals the potions that turned a monkey mad and causes her brother to transform almost permanently into a government killing machine. Jekyll transforms to a completely different person nicknamed Edward Hyde, a coarse larger than life personality that fulfills Henry’s deepest desires.

Odile, to me, was a rather over dramatic, and pretentious narrator. Half of her paragraphs seemed to start with “Dare I say…blah blah..” and “No doubt..blah..” Odile does care very much for the welfare of her brother, and puts herself in harms way for his benefit more than once. The whole time she is trying to figure out what the books left behind by her murdered mother mean for her future while Doctor Jekyll gets the recipe for more salts to turn into his Mister Hyde side whenever he wants.

There is a predictable romance on the side that ended up with the two people, Odile and Julien, the first nice person she met in Paris, falling in love and staying together through the end. Speaking of the ending, the plot ends abruptly and we don’t find out why Odile is narrating from the present, but speaking from the past. I assume the series will continue as there is one listed, but I have no clue where the author could possibly be going with this story.

I found the writing overly burdened by endless dependent clauses, and sometimes the italicized French got a bit away from me, and I would have to look up a translation into English. The book has an interesting premise, but the narrator is not strong enough until hardened by death in the end to be really interesting to read overall.

Notable Scene:

Whoever, whatever it was had risen to bedevil my bother had, yes, struck me to the floor when I had more pointedly, more purposefully put myself between him and the remaining vials. He’d have them. That much he made perfectly clear.

I felt no real pain, though he’d caught me with a claw, and it is perhaps more correct to say he shoved me to the floor. Regardless, from that position I tried again to defend the brew. I grabbed Greluchon’s leg: and his knee gave, or rather transformed with a hollow pop, which rang in my ear like the report from a pistol. I all but climbed that leg, trying to pull myself to my feet, the better to see what he was about, the better to somehow stop him. I could not let him progress through the three vials more, no. But each time I tried to rise, he shoved me back. He did so casually, as though he were a hungry child and I were but a wasp buzzing around his jam sandwich; but in so doing he caught my neck with one of his…claws, and he cut me. I must have then cried out his name; for, from my vantage point upon the laboratory floor, I watched as he turned to stare down at me over his hunched shoulder. The look was horrific. Steam came from between the lips he now licked–he’d bolted back more of the brew!–and as our eyes met, I saw that his eyes were changing still. At first I thought he was crying, and so I heartened somewhat, thinking that now I might reason with him; but now his eyes were reddened not by tears of remorse, indeed not by tears of any type. Rather, his eyes had reddened, were reddening still, as the chimpanzee’s had. How I wished then that he might settle that eye patch back into place, sparing me at least half of his ruby-eyed stare.

I fell back upon the floor, thinking all hope was lost. Yet in the moment before I began to fear for my own safety–and fear I most certainly would–I clung to a last scintilla of hope: If perhaps I could impede his progression through the remaining vials unto (and including) the sixth, then mightn’t the transformation be incomplete, mightn’t I preserve something of my brother’s presence withing the…thing?

The Shadow Sisters Series:

1. The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mademoiselle Odile

FTC Advisory: Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press provided me with a copy of The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll & Mademoiselle Odile. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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