Monday, July 3, 2023

Review: The London Seance Society by Sarah Penner

by Sarah Penner
Release Date: March 7, 2023
2023 Park Row
Kindle Edition; 352 pages
ISBN: 978-0778387114
Audiobook: B0BHFFB8NB
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

1.75 / 5 Stars

1873. At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike.

Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. But as the women team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery, they begin to suspect that they are not merely out to solve a crime, but perhaps entangled in one themselves…
My Thoughts
The London Seance Society is one of those books that I should have DNF halfway through the book, but because I enjoyed the author's previous book so much, I thought I would stick it out to see if it got better, but unfortunately, it was sluggish the entire way through.  The premise was interesting enough and I definitely enjoy reading about women and their involvement in seances during this time period, and I appreciated the author's research that went into this, but it didn't make up for a story that rambled and had characters that were just not all that likeable.
The first half of the book was extremely slow, and it didn't help that the story was told in multiple POV, one in first person, the other in third. This was supposed to add some suspense and I think allow one to connect to the main character, but all it did was make me despise those chapters and wonder why they were included.  Don' get me wrong, I don't typically have a problem with multiple POV, and they can be used quite effectively, but I don't feel that was the case in this book.  In the first half, the male POV was half-decent and I didn't mind it too much, but at the halfway point, the voice changed for whatever reason and became much more disturbing.  Again, not typically an issue, it's the way it happened as it was jarring and didn't flow with the previous narrative.  Either make his narrative disturbing or not, but this one-eighty didn't work and gave me a bad vibe.  I read a lot of horror, including extreme horror, and there's not a lot of stuff you can throw at me that I won't be able to take in stride, but changing personalities just to create a villainous atmosphere or to make a character seem darker just...doesn' Subtlety is the name of the game.  
The plot itself had potential, but the writing was clumsy as if the author didn't really know in which direction she was going, and the character development was all over the place.  The dialogue seemed forced and was so cliched, I was constantly rolling my eyes, and I guess you could say the romance was this way as well, seemingly written in to make sure the author has ticked off those things that she feels should be necessary to include in her novel.  And while I loved the setting, I didn't really didn't feel like I was in the 19th century.   

The London Seance Society wasn't a horrible book in principle, but when you put everything together there are so many issues, it was just so dang hard to get through.  A lack of developed plot and characters made the story seem jumbled and I had a hard time getting past the repetitiveness of it all. And when you have characters do stupid things over and over again, it's hard not to give your head a shake.  Overall, this one was a big miss for me.