I liked this second book even better then the first! Right from the start, in the train ride through the Romanian countryside, the author did a fantastic job of evoking an eerie atmosphere and sense of foreboding. This continues throughout the book, as Audrey Rose and Thomas Creswell are residing in Bran Castle which is full of tunnels, traps, a creepy staff and someone determined to make sure everyone believes Prince Dracula is alive and hunting for his next victims. If you're a fan of this series then this book is a must read!
I do have one complaint though about the audio recording. I listened to the audio version of both the first and second book and I had a very hard time hearing the narrator in the first book. I thought maybe it was just a fluke thing with my download but I had the same exact problem with this second book. I have to turn the volume all the way up on my phone and car to be able to hear it then it sounds sort of diluted like you're in a tunnel. I don't think the narrator is speaking loud enough or directly into the microphone. I hope they fix that in the next book. Anyone else have that problem?
This was an engaging historical romance read with mystery/thriller/horror elements depending on how jumpy you are when it comes to murder, vampire bats & huge spiders. (Man, that one scene took it to 110% horror mode for me!!)
It's not the book's fault, but I was super sad it didn't go into training montage/Harry Potter mode and double down on the competition to get into the bizarro forensic pathologist teens training academy in Dracula's creepy castle. Especially with the super-feminist Victorian girl trying to play on the same field as the boys, I wanted more of her competing for equal footing and to be recognized. Instead, the murder mystery element stepped up into centrefield. Which, it was cool the way they went in a different direction with the ending, I guess, and there were some truly unexpected twists, so props for that.
I think I prefer a little closer adherence to period-accurate perspectives in my historical fiction, to be honest. This leans more into an exciting, acceptable-to-2018-standards adventure territory. And the author had notes at the end pointing out which elements were research-based, and which were liberties taken for story purposes. But the feminist MC, although feminism did exist at the time, felt like she took things too far and in an inauthentic direction. To me, it felt preachy and performative, like if it were a film, she'd turn to the camera and make her argument, and then go back to playing her part. (Laurie R. King & Cat Winters do a spectacular job of integrating thoughtful feminist narratives in a period-specific narrative, if you want to read that btw.) But then again, it's not rare for teens to lack subtlety . . .
So in summary, so far this series isn't a personal favourite, but it is perfectly well done YA historical romance and makes for an entertaining read. Love the girl-forensic-pathologist angle, it's fun how historical characters who've become nearly fictional get woven in, and there's some very clever plotting going on. Props for accurate historical details and research at many points too. The love interest has an interestingly Holmesian character, and supporting cast are well defined and distinctive. 3.5 stars for a generally good read.