Book Reviews

Review: Opium and Absinthe (2020) by Lydia Kang

“New York City, 1899. Tillie Pembroke’s sister lies dead, her body drained of blood and with two puncture wounds on her neck. Bram Stoker’s new novel, Dracula, has just been published, and Tillie’s imagination leaps to the impossible: the murderer is a vampire. But it can’t be—can it? Tillie can’t bring herself to believe vampires exist. But with the hysteria surrounding her sister’s death, the continued vampiric slayings, and the opium swirling through her body, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a girl who relies on facts and figures to know what’s real—or whether she can trust those closest to her.”

I felt sucked in while reading this historical thrill-mance. The main character Tillie wasn’t wholly likable but she wasn’t a bad person, per se. She was heavily flawed and that made her seem all the more convincing. From what we know now from history, it’s hard to imagine a woman so headstrong and different in that time period having a happy ending. It was inspiring, to say the least. I was pleased to find that each character (and there were many) was acutely defined with their personalities and weren’t confusing in a book this size.

The excitement didn’t ebb and flow but kept a steady pace throughout the book. There were no filler chapters in this one! The story of Tillie, her addiction, her investigation, her family, AND her love life were all so well intermingled to keep intrigue at a high point during the entire experience. The back lighting of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a treat for fans of the famous vampire story but didn’t add any significant horror elements to the story (other than MURDER, of course). There could have been a few more dark elements to cut a clear line between fiction and YA fiction. The commentary on opium was interesting, considering the author is a physician. Readers might wonder what her personal confrontations with addiction have been like during her practice, and how that knowledge helped her craft such a human character.

Kang’s language is exquisite, matching the fine society she writes so fluidly about. It’s fair to say this is similar to a Jane Austen novel and readers of feminist literature will embrace it easily. Opium and Absinthe is a perfect concoction of romance and mystery that boils down to studies in addiction and gaining independence in a suffocating world.

Opium and Absinthe is available now, wherever books are sold.


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