Agatha DeLacey’s family isn’t rich or titled, so studying nursing at Ingold’s East End hospital in London is a rare opportunity for her. Despite the school’s focus on the innovative Bio-Mechanical program, Aggie cares more about the desperately poor human patients who flood the hospital, even if that means providing unauthorized treatment after-hours…and trusting a charming, endlessly resourceful thief. But the Artful Dodger is barely a step ahead of his underworld rivals, the menacing Bill Sykes and mercurial Oliver Twist, and Aggie’s association with him soon leads her into danger. When a brutal attack leaves her blind, she and the Dodger find themselves at the mercy of an experimental Bio-Mech surgery. Though the procedure restores Aggie’s sight, her new eyes come at an unnerving cost, and the changes in Dodger are even more alarming—instead of seeing Aggie as the girl he fancies, he now views her as a potential threat. As war between England and Germany brews on the horizon and a sinister medical conspiracy threatens to shatter the uneasy peace in Europe, Aggie and the Dodger must find a way to work together so they can protect their friends and expose the truth…even if it means risking their own survival.
Corpse & Crown (Cadaver & Queen, #2)Featured
Adding in the characters of Oliver Twist to the unique world of Bio-mechanicals created in the first book, this stand-alone continues the story begun in the first book. Agatha DeLacey (Aggie), who is Lizzie’s roommate from the first book, is a nursing student, who is glad to be at the school and away from her impoverished background. She is dedicated to saving lives, but since the mission of the hospital is Bio-mechanicals, the people running the place are equally interested in death.
Bio-mechanicals are typically made from dead bodies, which are reassembled of many parts and machinery. They are thought to create a new army which can save young men from having to fight. The potential war with Germany is spurring new innovations as the Kaiser has created advanced Bio-mechanicals and the English have only Victor (from the first book). They must figure out how to create another like him, versus the typical grunting and unintelligent Bio-mechanicals formed from corpses.
What I loved: Aggie was absolutely wonderful, and her perspective brings a whole new vantage point to the interesting story which was created in the first book. She is strong, engaging, and rational. The plot moves quickly and keeps the reader engaged throughout. I found myself quickly page-turning, eager to find out what would happen to our characters. In addition to the characters we knew from the first book, we are introduced to new, intriguing characters in the impoverished group of pick-pockets from Oliver Twist. Dodger, who is the primary new character, was clever, kind, and with an exciting bit of mischief that made him the perfect lead and counter for Aggie.
The whole premise of the book is pretty unique, combining Victorian England with mechanical innovation and some elements of, for lack of a better term, magic. It raises some interesting questions about what makes us human, scientific ethics/conflicts of interest, poverty and its consequences, and the lengths people will go to in terms of inventing weapons as well as whether they actually have any usefulness for preventing war. These themes can give the reader something to ponder, and the questions are interesting ones.
What left me wanting more: While the book states it was inspired by Oliver Twist, the characters felt very different from the original book. They shared names and pickpocket abilities as well as poverty, but beyond that, it felt completely different, so I think they could have been completely set apart. It is unclear whether another book in the series will be coming, and this one did not fully wrap up all the storylines. The set-up at the end definitely left me curious about where this world will go.
Final verdict: Overall, this is an interesting installment in a unique series. While it could be read as a stand-alone, I think it is helpful to have read the first book as there are many characters and they are better understood with background context. The interesting themes of this book raise intriguing questions.