The Apothecary’s Curse
By Barbara Barnett
Expected Release: 10/11/2016
Genre: Historical Fiction/Sci-Fi
Goodreads Book Blurb:
In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die. Hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.
When modern-day pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?
To begin, The Apothecary’s Curse was not a cover read. I have to be honest here, I do not like this cover at all in fact. I am hoping that the publisher might consider making some changes. It would be a shame to have this one overlooked (we are all guilty of cover buys) on account of such a trifle thing. But maybe I am the minority on this matter. According to NetGalley’s “thumbs up”system, it appears so. Fortunately, I took time to actually read the synopsis. As a fan of Sherlock Holmes, Victorian London and alchemy, I was intrigued. Add a dash of immortality into the mix and this makes for a very curious scenario that is hard to pass up. The entire premise is fascinating. So I immediately requested an ARC.
*I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for granting that request in exchange for this unbiased review. And without further ado..
This story spans over a century, so there is a lot happening with characters. Our very first introduction to the main character occurs at a dinner party with none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Bell. We quickly learn that the protagonist and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune’s counterpart Dr Simon Bell is the direct cousin of the one and only Joseph Bell who loosely inspired Doyle’s very own Sherlock Holmes. The revelation adds additional depth to the characters that is not to be under appreciated. Hooked! Keep going please!
Gaelan is fascinating and complex! He has a somewhat shrouded and questionable family history of alchemy with alleged magical ties. However, he remains skeptical of alchemy and the secrets that have been handed down throughout his family for many years. Aside from being an apothecary that favors scientific evidence, we also learn he is harbors a large amount of anger and heartache. Having survived unspeakable horrors, he seeks to escape his own immortality. Curious about this part? Read the book 😉
Simon is also riddled with pain and loneliness. Company does love misery. After his wife passes, leaving him with no desire to continue existing, he inadvertently curses himself with the same immortality that Gaelan has been afflicted with. Haunted by a love he cannot let go of, he is tormented daily by his own desire to rest eternally with her. Did I mention he also happens to become an author who writes fiction based upon none other that Sherlock Holmes?
The author has created a clever timeline spanning from London in 1902 to the present in Chicago. That is no small feat and is accomplished in no small manner. Each setting brings you into a distinct era through intricately detailed dialect, fashion, and surroundings. The world that has been constructed is vast, as it extends thorough many years of history and evolution that are executed with knowledge and great care, transitioning effortlessly. I would loved to have had more of the story occur within the Victorian London setting. While I enjoyed the events that proceeded towards the end, I was not as entertained with present day Chicago.
The story occurring within The Apothecary’s Curse was innovative and fresh. The author’s writing is fluent and precise, making this an effortless read, with just enough complexity and mystery happening to keep one engaged. The pace is somewhat fast, as the transitions happen often and the chapters are not unbearably long. Thank goodness for that! With a gripping start and a satisfying conclusion, this book felt complete and well executed.
This title could be classified in many categories. It has all of the right elements for fans of sci-fi, historical fiction, and mystery with maybe a touch of light fantasy. While, I would have enjoyed a deeper look into Gaelan’s family history and the end felt slightly rushed, it quenched my need for something different. It was a worthwhile read that I would recommend to anyone who has enjoyed the aforementioned genres. 4 ⭐ s
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