*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*
This book was not quite a retelling but was inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray. And while it wasn’t all that similar, it was still a good book in its own right.
I don’t actually know what it’s like to grow up with a sibling, so reading about siblings is always interesting to me. And this book had a type of sibling relationship I have not come across often in books, or at least not seen explored so deeply, even though I feel like it was a realistic one. Evadne and Dorina didn’t always get along, they often annoyed each other, sometimes they purposely pushed each others’ buttons or said/did hurtful things, they often didn’t feel like the other cared about them, but they did still love and cared about each other. They wanted to be closer as sisters, but they just had a really hard time trying to figure out how to do that. And that relationship seemed to be the focus of the book more than anything.
As for the characters themselves, I’ll be honest, neither Dorina nor Evadne was wholly likeable, but they weren’t wholly unlikeable either. They were realistic. I appreciated that. And by the end, as they both grew some, they grew on me as well.
The writing was also very good. It matched the tone and setting of the story and had this way of drawing me in.
The fencing aspect was another thing I enjoyed. I didn’t know anything about fencing, so that was fun to read about, and Evadne’s passion for something athletic helped me to relate to her.
My one main complaint is that took a long time for things to really start happening. I feel like the first half or so was just kind of, “Ok, here they are doing stuff in London. Here are Dorina and Evadne not getting along. Here is Dorina hanging out with Lady Henry. Here is Evadne fencing.” I wanted to get to the stuff about the demons sooner. Once it did get to the demons, things got faster-paced and more interesting.
I also want to note that I generally don’t categorize books as LGBT+ unless the protagonist is LGBT+, but I’m making an exception in this case. Dorina, who is a lesbian, is a POV character and has a big part (even though I’d say Evadne is the protag), Dorina’s relationship with Henry plays a big role in the story, and multiple other characters are LGBT+ as well.
So even though this book wasn’t very similar to the original Dorian Gray, the author did ask what it would be like if Dorian’s quest for aesthetic experiences didn’t actually lead to corruption and stated that her intent was to create a less dark variation on the story, and in that regard, I think she succeeded.
Anyone who likes the original Dorian Gray, slow-paced stories, sibling relationships, demons, and Victorian London.
“A delightful, dark, and entertaining romp . . . Molly Tanzer is at the top of her form in this beautifully constructed novel.”—Jeff VanderMeer, best-selling author of the Southern Reach trilogy
Victorian London is a place of fluid social roles, vibrant arts culture, fin-de-siècle wonders . . . and dangerous underground diabolic cults. Fencer Evadne Gray cares for none of the former and knows nothing of the latter when she’s sent to London to chaperone her younger sister, aspiring art critic Dorina.
At loose ends after Dorina becomes enamored with their uncle’s friend, Lady Henrietta “Henry” Wotton, a local aristocrat and aesthete, Evadne enrolls in a fencing school. There, she meets George Cantrell, an experienced fencing master like she’s always dreamed of studying under. But soon, George shows her something more than fancy footwork—he reveals to Evadne a secret, hidden world of devilish demons and their obedient servants. George has dedicated himself to eradicating demons and diabolists alike, and now he needs Evadne’s help. But as she learns more, Evadne begins to believe that Lady Henry might actually be a diabolist . . . and even worse, she suspects Dorina might have become one too.
Combining swordplay, the supernatural, and Victorian high society, Creatures of Will and Temper reveals a familiar but strange London in a riff on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that readers won’t soon forget.
“An artful, witty, Oscar Wilde pastiche with the heart of a paranormal thriller.”—Diana Gabaldon, best-selling author of Outlander
Book Author: Molly Tanzer
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, LGBTQIA, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy, Picture of Dorian Gray Retelling, Retelling
My Book Rating: 3.5
Setting Location: England, London