I had heard a lot about Leanna Renee Hieber's The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and was eager to read it.
A while a ago I was lucky enough to win it from Mari Mancusi's blog Teen Books with a Bite.
It starts with the drawing together of six teenagers in Victorian London. They take part in a mysterious, mythical ceremony which they do not fully understand and gain magical powers that will enable them to battle threats from the spirit world. They are also given vague hints about a 7th who will join them later at an unspecified time.
Then we are transported 20 years later to a time when the six are mature adults, showing stress from their constant devotion to battles with the spirit world, and Miss Percy Parker arrives at the Athens Academy.
Our heroine Percy Parker is timid and shy without being irritatingly mousy. She also sees, and communicates with, ghosts. She is a refreshing change from the usual kiss-ass heroines.
Professor Rychman is a little more of a cliche but who could resist Alexi Rychman’s Gothic good looks? And the strained friendship between him and Rebbecca is well depicted.
In the first two thirds of the story the characters of the other five members of The Guard are strongly expressed and differentiated enough that even in the crescendo of action towards the conclusion they did not lose their individuality.
Time is taken to develop characters and relationships. The passion of romance was subtly portrayed in tune with the Victorian setting but with such constant restraint even a gentle kiss can be deliciously sensual. Then the last third draws the story to a dramatic, face-paced close with eminent danger, emotional turmoil and galloping horses which left me at times breathless, at others distraught. I must admit I feared for lives as I impatiently turned the pages.
The conclusion was accomplished and convincing in a satisfyingly Victorian Gothic manner.
I look forward to reading the second book in the series:
For more information and a lot of fun go to Leanna Renee Hieber's website.