Strangely Beautiful is a re-release of two of Leanna Renee Hieber’s books into one volume. Originally published as The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, this new edition is the gothic tale of a group of defenders against evil who take on London’s Ripper. (I like the new shorter title much better!)
Miss Persephone Parker–known as Percy–is different, with her lustrous, snow-white hair, pearlescent pale skin, and uncanny ability to see and communicate with ghosts. Seeking to continue her education, Percy has come to Queen Victoria’s London, to the Athens Academy. What she will learn there will change her life forever. Athens Academy is the citadel of The Guard, an ancient order that battles the forces of evil. The Victorian Guard, led by professor Alexi Rychman, is incomplete. They cannot defeat Jack the Ripper– who is more than the serial killer he appears to be–or the greater monster his appearance heralds. Percy’s lifelong habit of concealment combined with Alexi’s fevered search for the Guard’s missing seventh nearly prove disastrous as ancient Greek myths begin playing out in modern, gaslit, Victorian London. Percy and her new friends and allies must overcome their preconceptions about each other and their own histories before they can set the world to rights.
Percy and Alexi are quite obviously the main characters in this story. It very well could have been more of an ensemble cast of characters, with 5 more gifted guard members, but they were only hangers on in this story. Too bad. I liked them, but because I didn’t know enough about them, I actually had a hard time keeping track of them. For instance – which one is the healer and what exactly is the nobleman’s gift?
Percy is a fascinating character. An albino, she lives in the shadows, reluctant to reveal her true nature and personality. She has few friends and loves Shakespeare. Fluent in a number of languages, she has no problem communicating when called upon to do so. I liked her spunk and her intelligence while at the same time, I sympathized with her solitary life. Is she the prophecized 7th member of the guard? There are signs that point that way. She is young though (19), lending the book a bit of a coming of age purpose that I personally did not appreciate, as most of the other characters are adults.
Since becoming the leader of the Guard, Alexi has been waiting for the prophecy to bring him something his heart longs for. Does he see it in Percy? The prophecy was vague and warned of pretenders. Despite the fact that I wanted to shout at him to pay attention to what/who is in front of him, Alexi’s character was solid in that his mindset kept him looking for something he just might never find.
The advance copy I downloaded from NetGalley was only a partial copy. So I don’t know how the prophecy was eventually realized. Potentially, there were a lot of interesting trials, heartrending mistakes and exciting confrontations with evil before the prophecized 7th Guard member stepped up. There are also some potential romantic relationships, but after 20 chapters, I can’t tell for sure if romance was meant to be part of the story. Because I was not able to finish the story, I will not be giving it a rating. I will say this: I was into this story and disappointed when it abruptly ended! I do think readers of historical fantasy fiction would enjoy Strangely Beautiful.