*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
This book started off promising—great writing, a historical setting I had never read about before (late 1800s New England and New Orleans), seemingly interesting characters—but it went downhill from there.
I loved that this book had a villain as the main character because that’s a rare thing to find. He wasn’t some sympathetic, secretly-a-good-guy flop of a villain either; he was despicable. And even though he didn’t have the best childhood/past, it was never used as some tragic excuse for his behavior. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only thing I ended up liking.
The main problem was Magnus’s character. For one thing, he was inconsistent—happy for his friend, wants revenge on his friend, loves the girl, just wants to bed the girl, motivated by obsession, motivated by revenge… His leap from typical douche bag to vengeful psychopath was also kind of sudden.
He was also too unrealistically open. Upon meeting Oscar and Madam Simone, he told them all about how he wanted revenge on his best friend for marrying the girl he wanted and discussed his preferences for a specific type of sex. The next day he told his whole life story to Oscar, all about how his father constantly told him he’d be a failure, how he hasn’t felt anything since his mother died, etc. Most people don’t open up about their emotional scars to acquaintances.
Most importantly though, if you’re going to make your main character a terrible, unlikeable person, he needs to be interesting, and Magnus just fell flat to me in that regard.
There was also this whole Oscar Wilde aspect (he was an actual character in the book), but it felt off. I didn’t understand why they so suddenly became friends. And Oscar’s character was either extremely stupid or extremely brave because he knew how vengeful and psychopathic Magnus was, yet not only did he remain friends with him, he also constantly called him out on the terrible things he did and then told him that Dorian Gray was based on him. I don’t know about you, but I’d be insulted if Dorian Grey was based after me, and insulting a murderous psychopath seems like a really bad idea.
Speaking of which, there was also this one whole scene in which Magnus had a dinner party with Oscar, Jacob, Frances, and others, and they all started blatantly talking about Magnus being a terrible person, and it just seemed strange. Characters seemed to behave oddly in general.
The death investigation didn’t seem realistic either. One cop casually questioned one person and immediately decided, *SPOILER ALERT* “Well then it was obviously suicide! No more investigation needed.” *END SPOILER ALERT*
As for the plot, it was slow-paced and took a long time for anything to really happen. The book seemed like more of a setup for future books. And the ending was kind of sudden with one of the characters acting in a way that was very unlike him. Maybe his behavior was supposed to be explained by the voodoo, but the voodoo hardly even had any part in the book. I’m not even sure what genre to call this since there was a lot of talk of voodoo but not much to show for it. But I’m guessing future books will probably be more paranormal.
Lastly, this is not a negative thing, but I want to mention that this book is not for the faint of heart. There was *TRIGGER WARNING* womanizing, brothels, sex, rape (mostly off screen), violence, and some horrifying treatment of women (which is not a complaint about the author, it was just the time during which the book was set and the actions of the characters). *END TRIGGER WARNING* You’ve been warned.
So overall I was really excited about having a legitimate, despicable villain as a protagonist, but he ended up feeling flat and inconsistent, and the slow-moving story felt more like a setup and just didn’t grip me.
Anyone who wants to read about a truly despicable villain as a protagonist, who likes slow-paced, suspenseful plots, and who doesn't mind the things I mentioned that bothered me.