In Theodora Goss’ debut novel, the daughter of Doctor Jekyll discovers that her father was part of a secret society of mad scientists. This being a gothic fantasy novel, she naturally befriends their dangerous and beautiful creations. In a world where cinematic universes have struggled to reimagine some of literature’s classic icons, including this summer’s abysmal The Mummy, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is the monster mashup that we really need.
Goss has made a name for herself as an outstanding short fiction author and academic: she’s examined classic fantasy tropes in short stories such as Cimmeria: From the Journal of Imaginary Anthropology and Estella Saves the Village, and is a senior lecturer at Boston University, where she wrote her doctoral dissertation on 19th century Gothic literature. In the afterword of her new novel, Goss explains that the roots of the story stem from a question she posed while working toward her PhD: “Why did so many of the mad scientists in 19th century narratives create, or start creating but then destroy, female monsters?”
Goss first approached the question with her short story The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, which was originally published in Strange Horizons and has now expanded it into a full novel. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter grows from that original critical query, and in the process brings together characters inspired by the famous (and not so famous) monsters from the likes of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Goss introduces us to Mary Jekyll, whose well-regarded scientist father died when she was a child. While cleaning up her recently deceased mother’s affairs, she learns of an account in her name supporting someone named Hyde. With…