Publisher: Tor Teen
Author: Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Release: February 12th 2019
Warnings: Graphic murders
I received a copy of Spectacle through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Spectacle is the debut novel of author Jodie Lynn Zdrok. It’s labeled as young adult and fantasy, but honestly, I think it could appeal to a broader audience than that indicates (then again, I almost always feel that way about young adult novels).
The novel is set in 1887 in Paris. Well, a fantasy version of Paris. Here is the time when there were still public executions, still a bias against women working in certain fields, and no good way to identify bodies found. Those facts may not seem like they are connected, but in Jodie Lynn Zdrok’s world, they certainly are.
Nathalie Baudin is a teenager working for a newspaper called Le Petit Journal. Even though nobody really knows that she’s writing the column. Still, she loves her job. Even if her job involves writing descriptions of the bodies at the morgue on a regular basis. It’s not a job for everyone, but Nathalie is good at it, and dare I say even passionate about it.
This is not the sort of novel I would normally pick up if I’m being entirely honest. At least, it’s not like anything I’ve read recently. My eye was originally caught by the cover, and I’ll confess that I have a fondness for Tor Teen, so that made me more than willing to read the description. The description made it seem like something new and unique, and that was enough to tempt me.
Warnings: There are graphic murders in this novel. The author does a brilliant job of keeping the details from becoming overwhelming, but they are still there. Picture Jack the Ripper in Paris, and you’ve got a decent idea of what is going on here.
Spectacle was an amazing and enthralling read. It felt so grounded in reality, but at the same time, the fantastical elements really enhanced the entire story. I feel like France was the perfect location for this novel – I honestly don’t think it would have had the same feeling anywhere else.
The balance in this novel was perfectly done. It had just enough of a fantasy element to hold my interest, but it was also rooted enough in the time period to make it all seem plausible. There were facts and events brought up that made me curious enough to look them up after the fact, but while I was reading I had no problem believing the plausibility of them. I love it when a novel makes me curious – especially so if I’m curious enough to do my own research after the fact.
I love that the reason for the fantasy elements in this novel is science. Yep, you read that right. Okay, it’s more like a pseudoscience. The sort of science you’d lump into the same category as Phrenology. Interesting, but not something worth putting your faith into.
The fact that Spectacle was able to take something like that, transform it, and turn it into something that could be believed, at least for the sake of this story? It’s actually pretty impressive. It shows how much effort went into the thought process here, and just how carefully Jodie Lynn Zdrok wrote it.
There were elements of this novel that felt distinctly Jack the Ripper-esque. A serial killer that targets women, that loves to taunt the police and newspapers. That’s where the similarities end, in truth. But those similarities were enough to significantly lend to the tone of this story. It immediately established an eerie and disturbing tone, all while showcasing the morbid fascination humanity has with death and killers. It was brilliantly done.
I’m extremely impressed with Spectacle on the whole. More so when I consider the fact that it’s a debut novel. I took a quick peek at Jodie Lynn Zdrok’s Goodreads page, and there’s a second book listed already. It doesn’t say that it’s directly tied to Spectacle, but the naming convention is similar enough where I have high hopes. It’s going to be called Exposition. Sadly that’s all I know about it so far. If anybody else knows more, please let me know!