Title: “The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart”
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber
Genre: Gothic, YA, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, PNR, Steampunk
Publication Date: November 1, 2012 (Sourcebooks Fire – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided finished copy
Summary: For Natalie Stewart, a normal life has never seemed so far away. Her only solace, Lord Jonathan Denbury, is wanted for murder. To clear his name, Denbury must return to England and assume the role of his demon doppelganger. But Natalie begins to doubt his true motives, especially as a new gentleman begins whispering in her ear. Natalie and Denbury may be able to visit each other in their dreams, but they can’t escape the darkening shadows. Amid spontaneous explosions, friends turned enemies and dangerous secrets revealed, there’s still a demon who has Natalie’s scent, and someone is trying to resurrect the ultimate evil.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – a great ending to a great duology – so sad to see this world go!
Review: Wow. I really liked the first book in this duology, “Darker Still” because of its throwback Gothic feel, and I love that Gothic is regaining its footing as a subgenre in YA right now. But with “The Twisted Tragedy of Natalie Stewart”, it not only trumps its predecessor, but ends on an awesome note that really, really is going to make me miss this world and am sad that this duology is over with. Even if you haven’t read the first book, be sure to check this release out.
While this second book wasn’t completely flawless, I feel that Hieber really, really grew as an author at her craft with this book. I feel like the characters and the world were more solidly built, and even though I did feel like the plot transition between the two main arcs could have had a smoother transition, the final product was really wonderful. It just makes me all the more sad to leave this world and these characters behind, because I felt that with “Tragedy”, I grew a lot closer and felt a lot more sympathetic to everyone in this book, villains and heroes alike.
Generally, what was really pleasing to see was the expansion of the world past demonic New York. Which was awesome, don’t get me wrong, and I love how Hieber really set the scene by shrinking and focusing her world for “Darker Still” on it. But here we get to see more of America in that time period, and London, too. We get more details (but still not enough – more on that later) on the shadowy organization (The Society) that helped trap Jonathon into his portrait, and what their other nefarious dealings involve. I love how this book incorporates small retellings of “Frankenstein” and Poe stories, though you have to look for them, into this world, and really overall ramps up the Gothic genre feel.
Okay, so my main gripe about this: The Society. We get details on them, but at this stage in the game (and part of the reason why I’m sad that we’re not getting another book – unless we are, and I don’t know it yet?), we should be getting more details than what we were given here. I understand the desire to keep The Society somewhat shadowy and secretive, and I know you only have so much space within a book to talk about them, but this is why I wanted a third book – I wanted to get to the heart of The Society and see how Jonathan and Natalie dealt with them more directly (as in, with their boss).
The ending lends itself to a wonderful way to give the reader enough room to imagine an ending where Jon and Nat team up for the rest of their lives together, dedicated to bringing down The Society and helping protect innocent people, so I can see why Hieber did what she did there concerning this main antagonist/Big Bad. So I’m a little split. I loved the ending, but I hate letting go of this world. I like the details we did get about The Society and their long game, but I don’t feel like we got enough of them when you look at where we are in this series/duology. I kind of expected more in that regard.
What was also wonderful was the growth of Natalie as a main protagonist as a whole – she really gets tough and strong, fast, but at the same time, not at a unrealistic pace. She’s had to suffer through hard knocks because of her psych-assisted mute condition, and so she’s already got a well of strength to draw upon. We finally see her really use it in this book, and generally, it was lovely seeing her really bloom and grow as a main character, and as a gal turning into a woman. For her time period, she’s really fierce, and I just absolutely loved that. We saw Jonathan grow as a character, too – well, when the demonic element wasn’t factored in like it was with the first book, and that was pretty awesome, too.
The fight scenes were just as intense in this book – just as spiritual/magical, and just as physical. Hieber’s talent with sensory imagery and language isn’t to be messed with, that’s for sure. I really felt as if I could see/hear/feel/touch/taste everything that was going on in this book, and I absolutely love it when an author can plunge me into a time gone by and still manage to make it not only feel believable, but totally plausible. The Gothic elements that helped retell Poe, Shelley, and Stoker were really threaded heavily within the sensory language area, and I was clapping my hands in delight whenever retelling pieces came up to the surface for the reader to study. LOVED THAT.
But I have to say, my favorite new character added to the cast was Nathaniel and Her Majesty’s Company for Melancholy Bastards. I definitely want a spin-off just for Nate and company. Seriously. Make it happen, Hieber. He was absolutely delightful and colorful, and I wish I could have attended his parties and plays.
Final verdict? While the ending did feel a bit rushed and I do want another book (and a spin-off with Nate), I was really satisfied with what I got in this book. If you haven’t read the first book, you might be a bit lost, so read it before diving into this one. “The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart” is in stores now from Sourcebooks Fire in North America, so definitely check it out! It’s on my best of 2012 list for a reason, guys!