Book Review: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl

Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show by Eric Scott Fischl is a book set in 19th century America about a failed Civil War surgeon who has since become a snake-oil salesman and quack doctor. Dr Potter is part of company of travelling salesmen, circus performers and fortune tellers, selling a special elixir said to cure all manner of ills. However, the Sagwa elixir has some sinister side-effects.

My Photo [Dr Potter's Medicine Show].jpg

Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show is structured in 3 parts, so I’m going to structure my review into 3 parts.

Part One: The Medicine Show

The characterisation of Dr. Potter as a fraudulent doctor was immediately apparent, which was good. However, the reader is not given much time familiarising themselves with Dr. Potter before lots of other characters are swiftly introduced. I felt that more characters were added to the beginning of the story than was necessary. Subsequently, it was difficult to remember each character’s individual personality and role within the group. This worked to the book’s detriment as it meant Dr. Potter didn’t wholly stand out as the main character. The story developed fairly slowly; some parts of the narrative made complete sense but other parts I found somewhat confusing to understand.

Part Two: The Great Work

By the second part of the novel, the story was more coherent and I could clearly distinguish between characters and follow different narrative strands. I liked the overarching themes of body-snatching / body invasion, alchemy and medicine in the book, and I think the book’s genre is an interesting combination of horror, science fiction and historical fantasy. I also enjoyed reading about the secrets of different characters’ backgrounds, which were revealed through flashbacks. However, I still think there may be too many characters involved in the overall story.

Part Three: The Stone

I liked the final third of the book the most, even though there is a small printing error, as it is labelled Part 2 instead of Part 3. There was much more action, gore, character interaction, and exciting supernatural moments. The story seemed to make much more sense, and the writing was easier to follow too. The antagonist is desperately searching for a stone that seemingly grants immortality (is it an irony there is a stone which provides immortality and one of the characters is also called Potter?), experimenting on unwilling victims until he has the right scientific formula, and he must be stopped at all costs. Because of these scenes, it was apparent Fischl has done some detailed research into alchemy, medicine and how scientific experiments were conducted in 19th century America, which I found interesting.

Whilst I did enjoy reading this book, for me, it took a while for the story to get going. As a side note however, I really like the cover design.

Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show is available to buy as an e-book directly from Angry Robot Publishing. Many thanks to Angry Robot Publishing for providing me with a free copy!

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

– Judith

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Book Review: The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick by Hattie Holden-Edmonds

This is part of a blog tour with Red Door Publishing.

The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick is the second novel written by Hattie Holden-Edmonds.

Oskar is the ultimate teenage loner who thrives on painting other people’s misery. However, after a ‘not-so-routine’ eye test, his bleak perspective is transformed after trying on a pair of very unusual lenses. The world he sees is filled with beautiful colours, happiness, and wonder – not what Oskar wants at all.

The story is original and interesting, and I enjoyed the wry tone Hattie uses.

As the title would suggest, the book centres on Oskar Dunkelblick. Hattie does a great job at making him the focus of the novel, as his character is incredibly interesting and detailed.

Oskar is quite a remarkable person; he enjoys tragedies, misery, is fascinated by diseases and is generally an oddball. He reminded me of Alex from Anthony Burgess’ novel A Clockwork Orange, and though he might be cruel at times, I couldn’t help but be drawn to Oskar’s personality.

The magical and psychological elements of the narrative were okay, if a little lost on me, and personally, the idea of seeing the continuous beauty within life came across slightly little wishy-washy, but that’s personal preference.

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Image via www.hattieholdenedmonds.com

I thought the front cover is creative and fun, and its focus on the eyes may be another unintentional stylistic similarity to A Clockwork Orange.  

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Image via www.penguinsciencefiction.org

I really enjoyed the flashbacks to Oskar’s past – they were well integrated into the narrative and the scenes recounting how he controlled and altered the life of his ex-friend Franz were some of my favourite parts. The flashbacks helped demonstrate how Oskar’s prickly personality has been formed by a tragic upbringing and past relationships.

However, despite these sadder scenes, The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick is definitely less bleak than A Clockwork Orange. The ending was surprisingly happy, and Hattie even includes a small, sweet, love story.

I’m curious to learn why the book was set in Germany with German characters – it certainly made a change from typical young adult fiction which always tends to take place in an English or American setting. If you know why it was set in Germany, do let me know!

Star Rating: 4/5 stars

The Spectacular Vision of Oskar Dunkelblick is available to buy as a paperback from Amazon UK.

– Judith

Book Review: Clone Secrets

Clone Secrets is the second book in the young adult dystopian series: Clone Crisis Trilogy. I have already read and reviewed Clone Crisis, the first book in the series, which you can read on my blog. The Clone Crisis Trilogy is set in a 25th century world where cloning has replaced reproduction.

Clone Secrets follows on from the events of Clone Crisis. After Yami’s friends make some new discoveries about the fertility crisis and emerging birth rates, biological children from around the country are kidnapped by masked strangers. Yami and her friends embark on a journey to rescue the children and uncover the truth about the government’s involvement in cloning.

The strength of Clone Secrets were its dramatic ambush scenes or its violent fight scenes as masked soldiers – known as Gray Suits – attacked communities and ripped young children away from their parents. These scenes were gripping, and the aftermath of these fights was always suitably dark and bleak.

However, I felt the scenes that followed were slightly less engaging, as there was more dialogue and less action. This was a shame because it gave the impression that these scenes were “filler” until the next conflict.

The leader of the community in which Yami seeks refuge, Ann, reminded me a lot of President Alma Coin from Mockingjay. In terms of character building, this was great because I remember just how much she annoyed me in both the books and the films – not sharing her ideas, being tight-lipped and secretive, and acting generally suspicious.

Image via Villains Wiki.com

I saw some of the plot twists coming, as they seemed to be referred to quite obviously, rather than the occasional subtle hint. At times, I felt there was a neon flashing sign screaming “all is not right”. Having said that, there were other moments in the book that caught me by surprise – introducing ideas or characters I hadn’t thought of or even considered could be possible. I liked these moments.

The ending of Clone Secrets works really well and leaves some plot elements nicely wrapped up and leaves other elements as utter bombshells, presumably to be resolved in the third and final book of the series, Clone Legacy.

To sum up, Clone Secrets has room for improvement, but was nonetheless an entertaining book in the series.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Clone Secrets is available to buy as an e-book from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

– Judith