Book Review | The London Seance Society (ARC)

I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of The London Seance Society by Sarah Penner. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.

In The London Seance Society, Lenna is determined to learn how her sister Evie died, so she begins studying under a famous spiritualist, Vaudeline. When she and Vaudeline are hired by the famous London Seance Society to investigate the death of their president, Lenna thinks this has nothing to do with Evie. But the more she learns about the Society, the more she discovers that what she knew about her sister was a lie—and the more danger she herself might be in. Meanwhile, a man named Mr. Morley hopes to get to the bottom of what is wrong in his beloved Society, no matter what it takes.

I read the author’s first book a while back and really enjoyed it, so I was eager to read her second book. And while this one wasn’t as good as her first, I still liked it.

I liked Lenna and Vaudeline. They had an interesting relationship, full of mutual respect and longing for a deeper connection than the mentor-student/friendly relationship they currently had. They are both intelligent, strong characters, and I enjoyed watching them interact. There were other minor characters, but they weren’t as interesting to me. Except maybe the carriage driver; I admit I kind of wanted him to play a larger role in the story, but oh well. He was definitely doing immoral things, but in comparison with the rest of the Society, it was nothing.

As for Mr. Morley, I feel pretty conflicted. We are given lots of scenes from his point of view, and I went back and forth about whether they were needed. Sometimes, they definitely added to the story, but most of the time, scenes from his viewpoint undermined any plot twists or revelations that Lenna encountered. It was almost redundant to have his perspective, and I wonder if the book would have about the same reading experience if one were to skip his chapters, or at least most of them.

Moving on from that, though, I think the scenes featuring actual seances were so cool and eerie. The atmosphere was intriguing, especially during the climax of the story. (Incidentally, this is one of the only sections of the book where Morley’s perspective adds to the tension rather than taking it away.) I loved Lenna in that scene, and thought it was a pretty well written suspenseful sequence overall.

In the end, I liked The London Seance Society. The supernatural elements blend well with the grounded historical London setting, and the exploration of how women were treated in that time period was nuanced and interesting. The two lead characters are great, though I would have liked more development of their romance. But the book prioritized the mystery, and I can’t really fault that; the scenes that gave more insight into Evie’s life were excellent. I don’t know that this is the best written mystery, but it is still worth a read.

Content note: There is some sexual content, as well as some violence.

The London Seance Society is available now!

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