OVERALL RATING: ★★★★/5
(Goodreads summary here.)
When I read Stalking Jack the Ripper last summer, I was a little underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t quite as intriguing as I thought it could have been. Still, I knew I wanted to read the rest of the series as the books came out, so here we are. And boy am I glad I decided to.
Wherever I thought Stalking Jack the Ripper fell short, Hunting Prince Dracula made up for tenfold. It had more intrigue, more characters, more development. I was thoroughly impressed by the growth Maniscalco showed as a writer between these two books. The plot flowed more smoothly, and each event was fleshed out in detail so that you could catch the things that would be important to the story later on if you looked closely enough. That’s what makes for a good murder mystery, at least in my opinion. If I can predict what will be important without guessing who the actual murderer is, I know I’ll really like it. That’s something that Prince Dracula did really well, much better than Jack the Ripper. In the first book, I knew who the killer was pretty early on. With Prince Dracula, I thought I knew, but the story had me second guessing myself constantly, along with Audrey Rose and Thomas. Even though I was unsure at times, I was guessing what objects and events would turn into clues, and I often found myself rooting for Audrey Rose to figure out the hints I had.
Audrey Rose, already an immensely strong character in the first book, proved herself to be a force to reckoned with. In Jack the Ripper, she had moments when I thought she was a little too helpless for my taste, but she really became the hero of her own story in Prince Dracula. Even though she had these wonderfully powerful moments, Audrey Rose in Prince Dracula was traumatized by the events of Jack the Ripper, and Maniscalco did not flinch away from portraying her troubles. I thought it was incredibly important to show that Audrey Rose was affected by what had happened in the first book because it made her more believable and human. If she had just moved on with her life, she would’ve been too perfect, too immune to tragedy that is unrealistic and, quite frankly, outside of her character. One of Audrey Rose’s strengths as a character is that she feels deeply, and it makes her more empathetic to the reader. Still, she manages to put her emotions aside when need be, but never loses them entirely. She is a woman who allows herself to feel for others and asserts that this does not make her less than the men around her.
On the flip side of this is Thomas. In Jack the Ripper, I had a hard time liking his character. He was a little too unfeeling, a little too broody for me to really like him, especially as the romantic interest. However, we get to see a different side of him in Prince Dracula. A lot of it is a result of Audrey Rose learning to read him better, but Thomas really grows and becomes more complex in this book. We learn more about his past, things that help to humanize him, that make him more interesting and, honestly, more likeable. Gone is the emotionless Sherlock who only feels for Audrey Rose. Instead, we see a man who has put up walls to protect himself, who feels deeply but forces himself to hide it. Thomas felt more raw and genuine throughout Prince Dracula, and I now count myself as a member of the Thomas Cresswell Fan Club (Is there one? There should be one).
One of the major reasons I enjoyed Prince Dracula more than Jack the Ripper was the expanded cast of characters. This is something I’ve heard I’ve heard repeatedly about the book, but I think I heard it first in someone’s Instagram story (I believe it was dontgobrekkermyheart). The first book only had a handful of side characters, which made it hard to connect to any of them and limited the possible suspects for the murderer. Prince Dracula does not have this problem. There is a broad range of people who make constantly question their innocence, which makes the story more thrilling. You also can connect to almost every character, which makes the idea that one of them may be a murderer more disturbing. I especially love the inclusion of Daciana. She is incredible, and I hope to be as badass and unapologetic as she is. Daciana is a phenomenal complement to Audrey Rose, standing as both a friend and an informal mentor. She was especially important to Thomas’s development, so I love her even more. I am a little disappointed we didn’t get to see more of Noah, though. I really appreciated how he wasn’t afraid to befriend Audrey Rose, and I really hope he shows up again in one of the next books, though I’m not sure how he would.
I am so excited for Escaping from Houdini and really hope we get to find out what Maniscalco changed between the ARCs and the final edition. From what I’ve heard from people who’ve received ARCs, it promises to be even more exciting and unpredictable. I sincerely hope that didn’t get lost between the ARC and final, although I can’t imagine how something like that could change significantly. Still, I’m ready for more of the kickass Wadsworth-Cresswell sleuthing duo.
Have you read both Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula? Which do you prefer?