Jan 4, 2017

Review: Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

TitleMad Miss Mimic
Author: Sarah Henstra
Publisher: Penguin Canada
Publishing Date: May 5, 2015
Pages/Format: 272, eARC
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Jane Austen meets Arthur Conan Doyle in a historical fiction debut for fans of Ruta Sepetys and Elizabeth Wein. 

Born into an affluent family, Leo outwardly seems like a typical daughter of English privilege in the 1870s: she lives with her wealthy married sister Christabel, and lacks for neither dresses nor trinkets. But Leo has a crippling speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak but curiously allows her to mimic other people's voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back... and watch as she unintentionally scares off every potential suitor. Only the impossibly handsome Mr. Thornfax seems interested in Leo...but why? And does he have a connection to the mysterious Black Glove group that has London in its terrifying grasp? Trapped in a city under siege by terror attacks and gripped by opium fever, where doctors (including her brother-in-law) race to patent an injectable formula, Leo must search for truth in increasingly dangerous situations - but to do so, she must first find her voice.

Book in One Word: Lost

What first drew me to Mad Miss Mimic was its gorgeous cover--which is something I would frame, title and all. I never heard much about it--until I read Jen at Pop! Goes the Reader's review, which had me convinced that Mad Miss Mimic was something I very much wanted--and even yearned--to read. When I saw the book--okay, the cover--on Netgalley, I immediately slapped down the request button and hoped for the best. The best did happen, and I got the book--which is not, unfortunately, the best.

Mad Miss Mimic started out extremely well in its first few chapters. The first page alone had me feeling that it could be a contender, and if not an utter favorite of the year then something I would cherish for its beautiful, lovely use of words and those ensuing feels. However, all that soon waned off and the feelings were gone. I think the big issue here is that the story was lost, or that it was never really clear. There's just so much going on, and it's hard to discern what the actual focus is: Leonora's speech impediment, Leonora's romances and future, the Black Glove attacks, the use of opium and the politics resulting from that, the sense that something is amiss. A lot is happening here, and the result is something messy and hard to invest in, and the loss of magic that can be felt when reading a historical novel.

I do believe I should make note of two things, the first being the newspaper articles scattered throughout the novel about the Black Glove attacks. They were completely messed up and illegible in my eARC, and that made understanding and following that part of the story extremely difficult--I always felt like I was missing something. Secondly, Mad Miss Mimic may have fallen victim to not being properly read (at least for me), if that makes even a cent of sense. I should have read this in fewer sittings--and not tried to read it when I was in a very daydreamy mood--so that I could properly absorb and appreciate it. I'm not saying that changing these would have made much a difference for Mad Miss Mimic's sake, but again--I just felt like they may have been worth noting.

Now that I think about it, where Mad Miss Mimic fell so unsuccessful was in its plot: there's just too much of it, yet not enough, and clarity is lacking. Instead of having four or five branches of the story, it would have been more successful with just two. Or, it could've worked if each branch had leaves and flesh. Leonora's speech impediment had a good chunk of flesh, but it could've used more to really put the reader in her shoes and bring that impediment--her constant stuttering and actual mimicking of how other people speak--to life on the page. The romance had so, so much potential, but it needed more time and interaction and sweetness to really make it strong. The Black Glove attacks and opium issues felt too separate from each other; they weren't cohesive. Sure, one coincided with the other, but they didn't feel like parts of the story, and not together. Just give it flesh--we want branches filled with leaves, not branches that are bare.

It really is a shame that Mad Miss Mimic wasn't as lovely as I hoped it would be, and not just because of that cover. If it would've been like those first few chapters, then perhaps it would've been more successful. Instead it's a historical novel with broken potential lost amidst muddled romance, a disability, city politics, and opium. It was too much, and yet also not enough. The only thing I really care to mimic from Mad Miss Mimic is its cover, and that's a shame.

Did I like it? I did, actually!
Did I love it? No.
Would I reread it? Maybe if I felt like giving it another chance, but probably not.
Would I purchase it? If it's on super-sale, because that cover.
Who would I recommend it to? Fans of historical novels, entwining plot points and narratives, and interesting stories.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man...this cover is so pretty but it's a shame you didn't like it that much! The cover is what made me check out your review haha. But maybe I'll give it a try if it's cheap as an ebook >.<

    Molly @ Molly's Book Nook


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