Book Review: Alisa Kwitney’s Cadaver & Queen Series continues with Corpse & Crown

I received an advanced reader copy of Corpse & Crown (available February 2019) from Inkyard Press and Edelweiss+ in return for an honest review. Then I borrowed Cadaver & Queen from my public library, because I hadn’t read it yet! Here’s my review of both titles:

Cadaver & Queen

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In Cadaver & Queen, the first book of this Young Adult Victorian-Age sci-fi thriller series, Elizabeth Lavenza, daughter of a famed medical engineer, enrolls at Ingold Academy of Medicine and Bio-Mechanical Science. As the school’s first female student, she faces extra scrutiny from her professors, mockery from her peers, and stonewall tactics from the female nursing students she’s forced to board with. Still, she manages to make a place for herself with fellow student outcasts Will and Byram, and even manages to snag herself a mentor in the estimable Professor Makepeace after she impresses him with her engineering skills.

All is going as well as can be expected until she accidentally encounters a secret Bio-Mechanical in Professor Makepeace’s lab—none other than

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Victor Frankenstein, Will’s older brother and former star student at Ingold, who died the previous year. Elizabeth is stunned…but strangely attracted to this bio-mechanical man, who seems to be in possession of all his worldly faculties, even if some of his memories are a bit hazy. Soon, though, Victor’s missing memories come to light, and Elizabeth makes new discoveries that will imperil them both…and perhaps everyone else at Ingold, too.

Alisa Kwitney’s Cadaver & Queen is a fun, engaging, and wholly original new take on Shelley’s Frankenstein. Book two in the series, Corpse & Crown, picks up shortly after book one drops off…but we have a new pair of main characters: Agatha DeLacey, probationary nurse and Elizabeth’s roommate, and the Artful Dodger.

That’s right—along with borrowing from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Kwitney’s second book also makes use of characters from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Readers can expect to see Bill, Nance, Fagin, Twist and the Dodger all re-imagined and given true new life in this new installment to the series.

Corpse & Crown

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Corpse & Crown begins with Aggie and Elizabeth on a secret medical mission for Ingold Academy, which has temporarily been moved to a hospital in London’s East End following the events of Cadaver & Queen. Aggie is stunned to find that their secret patient is none other than Queen Victoria herself, and that her new mission is to help the Queen “recover” enough from her procedure to convince Kaiser Wilhelm that all is well with his grandmother (Seriously, everything is fine, no need to attack the Realm!).

Unfortunately Aggie finds herself distracted by the real medical needs and concerns of the East End poor, who have been placed on Ingold Academy’s back burner while the doctors and students work to produce Bio-Mechanical prototypes advanced enough to impress the Kaiser on his visit. Even Elizabeth is no help, as she’s been tasked with the invention of Bio-Mechanical eyes.

charles-3560940_1280A poor girl herself, Aggie can’t stand to see the needs of the common people pushed aside in the name of advancement. That’s probably why she agrees to help Dodger when he asks Aggie to come and check on his ill friend, Nance. Aggie and Dodger are attacked on their way back to the academy and Aggie is blinded. While Nurse Shiercliffe, Aggie’s mentor and chaperone, tells her everything will be fine, Aggie knows losing her sight means she’s also lost her career. How can she tend patients if she can’t see them?

Nurse Shiercliffe is one step ahead. Because unknown to Aggie, Dodger has been captured by the academy, and he may be just the specimen they’ve been looking for to impress the Kaiser…once they give him Elizabeth’s newly finished Bio-Mechanical eyes. And since he won’t be using his regular ones anymore…well, the matron has some idea how they can be put toward good use.

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Aggie wakes to find her whole world has changed, and she’s no longer the only one looking out at it through her new eyes. When she learns the truth about what happened to Dodger—and what might happen still—she knows it’s her responsibility to help him. But how can one poor girl and one poor Bio-Mechanical boy stand up to Queen and Kaiser?

Corpse & Crown is just as much a fun romp as Cadaver & Queen. Kwitney’s tale is fast-paced and twisty, leading readers down paths both expected and unexpected. I’ll admit I was a bit uncertain when the new “cast” from Oliver Twist rolled in. Despite it being one of my favorite Dickens’ novels, I wasn’t sure how well these worlds would blend together. Kwitney’s tie-in works…though if you’re a purist, be warned, these characters do take on new lives of their own in this work of alternate literary history!

Are you a fan of alternative histories in kidlit? Tell us what you’ve read lately!

4 comments

    1. If you like historical sci-fi/steam this is a good series to dig into! Kwitney is a new author for me, so I was excited to get the ARC. Thanks for reading my review!

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