A Victorian novel with love, political ambitions, and spies. Amalie Vantana’s Phantoms in Philadelphia is all of these things with enough intrigue and action to stay closer to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies than Pride and Prejudice.
Elizabeth (Bess) Martin is a 19 year old spy who was trained by her father from a young age to become the leader of the Phantoms, a secret spy group. In 1816, two years after the murder of her father, Bess is leading the Philadelphia Phantoms, with her younger brother Jack by her side, as they look for Levitas, their enemy and the group that murdered their father, and the artifacts that Levtias covets to control. When their mother announces her betrothal to Richard, a wealthy man, Bess and Jack are surprised as she is just supposed to be coming out of mourning. More surprising is that Richard is involved with Levitas, but Bess and Jack have yet to learn how much.
The novel is told through the split perspectives of Bess and Jack, alternating every few chapters to provide a more complete picture of the events as they unfolded. The events of the story build and the action is quickly-paced, which works quite well as it’s juxtaposed with the generally slower nature (and sometimes considered boring) of a Victorian novel. I enjoyed the agency that was given to the females in the novel–it was nice to see women of action instead of helpless damsels. The inclusion of historical facts and persons, such as the fever of 1793 and President James Madison helped provide realism to the seemingly fantastic aspect of the spy games. There were some areas of grammatical errors, particularly with punctuation, but otherwise it was clean and well developed narratively.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.