One thing that usually happens with the second book in a series is that it’s never as good as the first book or you feel like the author tries too hard to prove they’re not some kind of one hit wonder. I’m glad to see that Kerri Maniscalco didn’t quite do either of those things and while this is a series itself, it’s more of those “standalone” series than a continuous one.
Though I’ve only read two books, it feels like each one has a single story to tell and accomplishes it by the end. And to me, what this means is that we don’t have to waste pages and ink to recall everything that happened in the first book to remind readers what had happened. That’s not to say that Maniscalco doesn’t have reminders of the previous book’s plot, because she does, but we’re not stuck on it or wasting time going through all the details of Stalking Jack the Ripper. This isn’t the kind of series that needs to be told that way since, in my opinion, all of these books can stand by themselves. Even if the books are read out of order, Maniscalco doesn’t go into painstaking detail of the previous book, like who Jack the Ripper was or how Audrey Rose and Thomas figured it out which I find very interesting. It feels like both good writing and smart writing and the only thing one would miss out on by reading out of order is the amazing characterization of Audrey Rose and her growing relationship with Thomas Cresswell. So how does this avoid second book syndrome? By not technically being a true second book in a series, I suppose. And I’m not mad about it.
Like with Jack the Ripper, I know nothing about the idea of Prince Dracula other than the fact that media has depicted him as a vampire. And what I liked about what Maniscalco did was play into the media version of him, of how the person committing all of these murders is not a vampire themselves but is mimicking the actions of a vampire to mostly instil fear into others, making them believe vampires are real. I feel like Maniscaclo did a great job with using her setting and playing into this historical myth. As for the mystery aspect, this was one I couldn’t quite pinpoint. I had suspects, as I always do, but much like Audrey Rose I just couldn’t figure out how it all fit. And the way Maniscalco threw all those red herrings out to trick the reader absolutely worked on me and I was beyond stunned at the final reveal, making it much stronger than the Jack the Ripper reveal (and not just because I figured that almost immediately). It also made you interpret the title of the book, Hunting Prince Dracula, in a much different way and I always love to see that. In that respect, I feel like this book was stronger than the previous because the mystery wasn’t obscenely obvious; I thought it was but it didn’t end up the way I expected and if you can stump me then you have a winner on your hands.
Miss Audrey Rose is quickly becoming one of my favourite female characters in all of YA, something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. I’ve always felt from the beginning that has written her in such a smart way and has done a marvellous job writing her as this feminist icon type of character without being obvious or lazy about it. I feel like we’ve come a long way from the “not like other girls” trope of characters we’ve seen in YA, though that’s kind of just turned into “I know how to fight/defend myself” (which I HATE), but authors still tend to be lazy with writing feminist characters by throwing them in male dominated worlds to prove their point when they really don’t need to. And yes, Maniscalco has put Audrey Rose in the same kind of male dominated world but doesn’t have her in that world to prove anything, really. Audrey Rose is simply interested in science and forensics because she enjoys it and never thinks twice about doing it for anyone but herself and those she could potentially save with her skillset. I just find Audrey Rose to be such a fascinating character to read about, and I don’t find myself complaining about the story being told from her voice the way I probably should, and the latest addition to her character is the PTSD she has thanks to the Ripper case and I’m thankful that Maniscalco didn’t gloss over this. I love the way you actively see Audrey Rose try to work through her trauma and how it’s really affecting her, whether it’s through the tricks her mind plays on her or the way she won’t allow herself to think on it and grieve and I think it’s important that you never see some kind of breakthrough or moment where Audrey Rose is magically cured. It’s more that you see Audrey Rose learn to accept her grief and live with her trauma, working through that, but knowing she’ll never truly be free from it but she can be better one day, and to know she can do that with Thomas by her side supporting her each step of the way but not doing anything that’s not on her terms. That’s why I feel like Maniscalco has written Audrey Rose in such a smart way and make her a truly inspiring figure, especially for 1888.
I don’t have much to say about Audrey Rose and Thomas as both a partnership and a romance because everything I said before remains to be true. Their chemistry is undeniable, they truly compliment each other in the best ways, and should be the gold standard to look up to.
I think what I love most about these books is how much of an atmospheric writer Maniscalco is and it’s a type of writing that works for me. I constantly find myself truly immersed in her stories, almost as if I truly am Audrey Rose attempting to solve this mystery. This instalment had much more twist and turns than the previous one, as well as a nice amount of historical fiction, and entertained me every step of the way. I was hesitant to give Stalking Jack the Ripper the full 4 stars but there’s no hesitation here; this story was great and exciting and, above all, surprising and I enjoyed every second of it.
In this sequel to Kerri Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper, bizarre murders are discovered in the castle of Prince Vlad the Impaler, otherwise known as Dracula. Could it be a copycat killer…or has the depraved prince been brought back to life?
Following the grief and horror of her discovery of Jack the Ripper’s true identity, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has no choice but to flee London and its memories. Together with the arrogant yet charming Thomas Cresswell, she journeys to the dark heart of Romania, home to one of Europe’s best schools of forensic medicine…and to another notorious killer, Vlad the Impaler, whose thirst for blood became legend.
But her life’s dream is soon tainted by blood-soaked discoveries in the halls of the school’s forbidding castle, and Audrey Rose is compelled to investigate the strangely familiar murders. What she finds brings all her terrifying fears to life once again.