Book Review: Becoming the Dark Prince by Kerri Maniscalco

Becoming the Dark Prince by Kerri Maniscalco is a novella and book 3.5 in the Stalking Jack The Ripper series. Thomas Cresswell is front and center taking the narrating duties away from Audrey Wadsworth. Thomas is easily my favorite character in the series so I throughly enjoyed getting in his head. This novella throws the reader back on to the RMS Etruria in the midst of the events of book three Escaping from Houdini. Escaping from Houdini was my least favorite of the series so far, that said I really enjoyed this little taste of a story. It does a good job of reminding the reader of the new villain that will be stalking the streets of New York in the new novel Capturing the Devil that releases on September 12th in 2019, it also reminds us of the love that was tested and what has endured on the last adventure to where Thomas and Audrey are in their relationship now. I liked that this story is half retelling from a different perspective and half telling the story of what went on while Audrey was not present.

The Plot: Thomas is first in the middle of book three on the RMS Etruria where Audrey and Liza have just gotten back from the first day of training in the act of the Moonlight Carnaval. Audrey has already made the deal with Mephistopheles so Thomas is dealing with not knowing where he stands with Audrey. Then the story jumps right to the finally and we the reader get to see how exactly Thomas reacted to those events, it was still exciting even knowing the out come. We then get to see how Thomas handled things after Audrey was not present. we get insight in to the conversation that Audrey only overheard bit and pieces with Thomas and Mephistopheles. We also get more insight to the mysterious body in the crate and how it relates or not to the killer of the Moonlight Carnaval.

What I Liked: Thomas’s voice for the story really worked for me all the insecurities and how he starts to count when overwhelmed. The love of Audrey and Thomas is the heart of the story and is written so beautifully. I loved finding out about Audrey’s new cane and all the thought that Thomas put in to it and the dialogue with the shop keeper about Audrey’s knife fights The cane looks so awesome featured on the cover of Capturing the Devil, just like how I pictured it in my head. I really enjoyed the back and forth with Thomas and Mephistopheles. The cover for this fits with the other’s but finally helped me have a glimpse of Thomas Cresswell’s frame.

What I Disliked I would have liked to relive more of the acts leading up to the finally and what went through Thomas’s head when she volunteered after the warnings. I was hoping for a little bit more knowledge of the new killer, and Thomas’s testimony about the Moonlight Carnival Killer.

Recommendations: The story is 99 cents and I feel so worth it as a fan, you will get more insight into the lives of character’s and events. Do not read this if you have not read Escaping from Houdini, because you will know who killer is. I rated this story slightly higher than Escaping Houdini and give it a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. my best to worst order is Hunting Prince Dracula, Stalking Jack the Ripper, Becoming the Dark Prince, and Escaping from Houdini. I’m more excited now than I was for Capturing the Devil.

Book Review: Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

Escaping from Houdini is the Third Stalking Jack the Ripper book that follows the adventures of Audrey Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell as the investigate corpses and always find trouble in the late 1800’s. The opening was without a doubt the best one of the series it quickly pulled me in, and moved really for the first half, then it started to slow down and run out of good suspects for the mystery. I stopped caring about the victims who stopped being memorable after the first couple. I wanted to like this one more than I did.

The Plot: After the events in Stalking Prince Dracula, Audrey and Thomas are headed on a journey to America from England. Audrey’s Uncle and mentor in autopsies joins her on this journey. They set sail on a 7 day voyage on the RMS Etruria, a luxury cruiser of the time, this trip is different because of the new dinner entertainment the Moonlight Carnival, Which is a dozen or so acts featuring a young Houdini, the act promises, mayhem, madness, and possibly death, and that’s what the show delivers, a murder takes places right in front of the audience at Audrey and Thomas’s table. This murder leads to other’s and the ship pointing fingers at the mysterious performers. Audrey and Thomas are put to the test to find the killer or killers.

What I Liked: The opening is done so well, easily my favorite part. Character’s from the first book are back in this one, they were deeply missed. The love story aspect still works I liked them a lot more when Audrey and Thomas were in sync. The bits that Houdini were in worked well, but few and far between. I did like that they have one murder that can’t be explained which will fit into the next book but worked really well.

What I Disliked: The pacing was good for the first half then lost me, as character’s keep going back and forth to the same location. The explanation for the killings was good but the build up to it pretty bad and didn’t care towards the end. I needed to care about the victims but half of them I could barely remember them interacting with Audrey, which made they’re death not that impactful.

Recommendations: I think this is the weakest of the trilogy so far, I would rate this book 3 out of 5 stars while I rated the other books 4 out of 5. I would give the series 4 out of 5 stars so far the last book in the series Capturing the Devil was just announced for September and I plan on reading it, to complete the series.

 

Book Review: Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Hunting Prince Dracula the second in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series. I feel in a lot of ways it is vastly improved from the first novel in terms of scope and descriptions. In the first novel the author was kind of handcuffed by using Jack the Ripper’s real crimes and building a novel around it, but this is a totally new tale where we get the author’s own vision. The body count is up, the dissections are more detailed, and there’s bucket loads of blood. The horror is ratcheted up, it takes a little while to get to the real horror but I have a phobia to one element that was described really well making my skin all creepy crawly.

The Plot: This novel takes days after the last one with Audrey Rose still dealing with torment that she and her family went through in the last book, and doesn’t know if she can pursue forensic medicine and operate on the dead. Thomas, her still will they won’t they “friend”, accompanies Audrey Rose to they’re new school forensic medicine at Castle Bran in Romania, the once home of Vlad the Impaler of Dracula lineage. While on the Orient Express heading to Romania a young man is murdered by a wooden stake, just outside their cabin. They see a pale sickly boy leave the scene as the police arrive. When they get to the cabin they’re not at all welcomed the headmaster thought Audrey’s application was a possible joke, and they find out there spot is not guaranteed and out of the 9 classmates only 2 will be taken. When they meet their fellow students two stick out Prince Nicolae part of the royal family and an heir through marriage to Vlad the Impaler, and she meets the sick pale boy from the train. They plan to question him, but before they can he is found impaled and with two marks on this body and all his blood drained in the nearest town. Another woman in town goes missing, as more bodies start turning up. Is this the work of a Vampire? Audrey and Thomas are determined to find out, but will it be too late?

What I liked: The setting of Bran Castle in Romania is a great location that is filled with it’s own set mysteries. The castle is both creepy and you feel the confinement by the elements and other things keeping them from exiting. Really great female characters in this story besides Audrey, the first book really missed that. The secrets revealed about the castle and people are really intriguing. The ending kept me on the edge of my seat the last fifty pages are so good, if the rest of the novel were like it, I would give it five stars without question. There’s a false scare that is written really well, you can almost see the author’s smiling crimson lips as she gets the reader. Feminism is still prevalent throughout and because there are other female characters not just Audrey bucks the system. The Thomas Audrey relationship is challenged more in this one, but the banter is still there and flows really well. Thomas does have the dumbest guy prank, that I slapped my head with what was he thinking, but it was not out of character, I can see a lot of my friends do that to someone they’re interested in thinking it was a good idea. I made a complaint in the last one that I figured it out to easily because the possible suspects were so low, but in this one almost every character is a suspect so it made figuring it out who did it really difficult. This book does have an Indiana Jones moment and it is great. I forgot to put this in my first review but the covers are absolutely beautiful, and really drew me in.

What I disliked: There’s a lot of family history, and it was always made clear to me who was related to who and how they were related to the Vlad the Impaler lineage. It made my head spin and could have been explained better. The other students needed more personality, the Italians, Prince Nicolae and the American where the only memorable students the rest seem to blend in. The writing is still current and not at all old timey, the occasional use of Romanian langue worked though. The middle slows down a lot and I had to plod through in parts.

I recommend this book for reader of the first book Stalking Jack the Ripper, I liked this more than the last one, in terms of stake secrets, and finale. The author does her research and if you want some facts on Vlad the Impaler, just like in Ripper, I learned something. Where I struggled in the last one between a three and a four star, this was an easy 4 out of 5 stars.  I will definitely be checking out Escaping from Houdini when it comes out next week.

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper is a fantastic debut! It is set in Victorian England but feels fresh using feminist ideas from today’s society questioning what is lady-like? This novel doesn’t hold back on blood and descriptions of the horrid acts. The novel uses the real crimes and letter’s from Jack the Ripper to enhance the realism of this bloody tale. There’s a picture of the original note that Jack sent to the police. The author takes license with the Jack’s story to better fit into the narrative of her own story.

The Plot: Audrey Rose Wadsworth lives in the year 1888 in London, at a time that an unknown figure was stalking and killing prostitutes. Audrey also lives in a time that is set on what a lady should and should not do, But she bucks the system, by assisting her uncle by investigating and dissecting the corpses of the recently deceased. Audrey does this all under the cover, she goes dressed as a boy to forensic science classes. Her father does not approve of this behavior, and has been more strict with his daughter as his wife passed away years ago from a sickness. Her brother who used to let her slide has been more protective as well, so she is led to sneaking out at night. Her Uncle has a new mysterious helper named Thomas that she’d either going to love or going to hate. He also doesn’t live by society’s rules, as he spends his time operating on the unclaimed dead. The killer grows more bold and Audrey notices a pattern that the all the dead women have, that makes her fear that the killer could be someone she knows. She’s also battling societies restrictions placed on her, but she’s determined to find out who the killer is by Stalking Jack the Ripper.

What I liked: The opening really puts you into what kind of story this is as Audrey cuts into one of Jack’s first victims. The character of Audrey Rose Wadsworth is written really well and you can’t help rooting for her. I like the way that Audrey and Thomas flirt, there relationship was very tenacious and combative. The author using the real words of Jack the Ripper and the crimes, they’re already so horrific nothing is added to this element. I liked that I learned stuff that I didn’t know about Jack the Ripper, or Saucy Jack. The descriptions and word choice was one of the better I’ve read in the category of Young Adult.

What I disliked: The character’s dialogue did not have any cockney to it, I felt the setting was correct but not the way they talked just felt very modern, which was probably a conscience choice but I needed a little to fully emerge myself. There was not enough suspects, only four really and I was able to figure it out too early by simply eliminating, who could have done it. I read a lot of mystery, which helped so it might not be as obvious as it was to me. The story was still great and I questioned it a couple times if I was indeed wrong.

I would recommend this for fans of Jack the Ripper. I also think this could be a good stepping stone novel to adult horror. The story reminded me of a young adult version of the excellent Matthew Corbett series written by Robert R. McCammon. I rated this novel I rated 4 out of 5 stars, because what this novel did right it did very well.