Book Review: The Heartless City (The Gold and Gaslight Chronicles Book 1) by Andrea Berthot

It's 1903 and the city of London has been quarantined for 13 years due to the Hyde drug, originally created by Dr. Jekyll, an experiment that went horribly wrong and created a city of heart-eating monsters. Elliot, a 17-year-old who accidentally made himself an empath when he tried to escape his troubles with a serum he created, is struggling to cope with his new abilities and his life in general when he meets Iris, a girl with emotions so strong, hopeful, and fearless they call to him. But Iris also has abilities of her own, and together they attempt to figure out who the real monsters are and save the city.

Book Review: The Heartless City (The Gold and Gaslight Chronicles Book 1) by Andrea Berthot | books, reading, book reviews, fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, young adult, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde retelling


Ok, people, do not let my apparent calmness in this review fool you because I would give this book 6 stars if I could.

This was one of the best books I have ever read. There is not a single thing I would change about it, not a single thing I disliked, not a single thing that was lacking. I couldn’t even function after reading it because how do you function after being blown away like that?!

But since books are subjective and everyone reading this doesn’t know what my personal preferences are, I will tell you all about why I loved it so much! I will even organize it so that you can find exactly what you’re looking for, since this might be long (not even sorry). So here goes!

The Emotion
Emotion is what I read for. The deeper and stronger, the better. And this book was emotion on steroids because the main character was an empath, and I have never before read a book by an author who was able to describe the emotions an empath was feeling in such a strong, powerful, beautiful way. The sheer amount of emotions in the book, and the rawness and power of them, everything from love to shame to fear to rage, was just phenomenal. I felt like  I was going to burst into tears for no apparent reason while reading because the sappy parts of me couldn’t even handle it. And since the protag was an empath, I got to know and feel not just his emotions but those of ALL the characters.

The Characters
Not only were they likeable, they were unique and developed. Elliot made a great protagonist because he was vulnerable, somewhat broken, and having difficulty coping (I do love me a tortured hero), but he was also understanding and used his ability to learn and grow. My favorite though was Cam because he was just so damn genuine, enthusiastic, and lovable!

The Relationships
There were straight and LGBT relationships, and both were healthy and adorable. Yes the main characters fell in love quickly, and normally I might be bothered by that, but I didn’t even notice it in this book until I stopped to think about it afterward. It just worked with the situation and the characters, especially since they were so supportive of each other. But the great relationships didn’t stop there. The friendship between Elliot and Cam was deep and full of love, and neither was afraid to express their care for the other—male friendships like that are not something I see often in books. There were even some complex family relationships that weren’t perfect but grew by the end of the story. And I was just as invested in the side characters as I was the main ones.

The Messages
I couldn’t help but love the feminism and LGBT support, as well as the overall point about understanding others. I’ll let these two quotes do the talking for me. (I took the names out of the second one, but it could still possibly be a spoiler.)

But then he remembered that monsters weren’t the only threat women faced.

Elliot had always been told that men like that were deviants, that if they had any feelings at all, they were twisted and depraved. Since his affliction, he’d come across the vilest of human emotions: hatred, arrogance, cruelty, and many other feelings with a sense of wrongness about them. But what he’d felt from [blank] and [blank] last night was nothing like that. The fire that burned between them wasn’t some evil, destructive force; it was pure, selfless, regenerative, and… beautiful.

The Writing Style
The best way I can describe it is that it was light and easy to read, but with a slight beautiful/historical infusion. And I abso-freaking-lutely loved it.

The Plot
The book was more character-driven, but the plot was nicely paced and kept me interested and invested in every single scene. It flowed naturally with ups and downs, building up to the ending, which had me at the edge of my seat. My favorite scene was definitely the one when they listened to the ragtime music. I played the actual songs (which you can find in the author’s playlist) in the background while they were singing, dancing, drinking, joking, and laughing, and I swear I could feel the joy and the hope as if I were right there with them!

Everything Else
Not only was this an interesting premise (it’s not exactly a retelling, but it was inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and a story filled with creativity, it was so rich with details—but not the kind that bog you down, just the kind that make a story come alive!

This book was emotional, intense, surprising, and, most of all, beautiful!

*Note: This is part of a series, but it is a complete story about these main characters that works as a standalone.*


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Have you read The Heartless City by Andrea Berthot?
Do you like a lot of emotion in the books you read?


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  1. Cait @ Paper Fury

    *raises hand* I LIKE EMOTION IN BOOKS!! I am loving the sound of this one and omg that cover?!?! SOLD. XD Yes I’m horribly shallow like that…hehe. But I love retellings and this sounds really unique and complex and excellent written?!!? SOMEONE GET ME TO GOODREADS. *dashes off*

    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

  2. Andrea Berthot

    The ragtime scene is my favorite scene too. 🙂 AND I’m so glad you liked listening to the songs on the playlist – I was hoping someone would appreciate that lol! Awesome review (as I obviously agree and am a super fan of emotion). <3

    1. Kristen Burns

      I love having the right music to go with a book! I don’t usually look at websites before reading though, so it was serendipitous that I happened to this time. And I love that the ragtime scene is also your favorite 😀 Thanks, it makes me so happy that you appreciate it! I meant every word!

  3. Lola

    Wow it’s rare that there isn’t a single thing to dislike in a book. This book sounds really original and good! I don’t think I have heard of the story this one is a retelling from before. The heart eating monsters aspect does sound creepy, but I do like the sound of the two main characetrs and their abilities.
    The emotions sounds described really well. On the one hand I love it when a book can pull at me in such a way and make me feel, but on the other hand it can also make me feel a bit uncomfortable. And I don’t deal well with books that get those negative emotions out of me. In other moods though I appreciate it and find it beautifull how an author can envoke emotions like that. I certainly do think it’s a skill when an author can make you feel so much with a book.
    Just like you I like character who are somewhwat broken. I love it when the characters are well developed and likeable and it sounds like this book definitely has that. Great review!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It IS rare—that’s why it blew me away so much! I mean, there are negative emotions in this book, but overall it actually has a far more hopeful than depressing feel. So it might not make you uncomfortable. It is definitely amazing the way authors can make you feel things though, positive and negative. And the characters were great, especially if you like your protags somewhat broken too!

  4. Greg

    Wow, nice review. I like that cover too, it caught my eye. Characters and emotion are so important, and sounds like this one has that in spades! An empath is a cool idea, a lot you can do with that. Glad it was awesome!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I can already see the cover making my favorites list 😛 I know I’ve read at least one other book with an empath’s POV, but this one blew it out of the water with how it described the emotions. The ability was definitely used to its fullest! Thanks 🙂