“I’ve yet to hold the devil’s handiwork. Everything evil I’ve found was made by human hands.”
Some legends never die…
Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.
Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.
Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED SEPTEMBER 3, 2019
CW: loss of a loved one, parental neglect, nudity, underage drinking, car crash, gore, smoking, violence, self-harm
Above all else, The Lady Rogue gives me huge The Mummy (1999) vibes, particularly Evie Carnahan vibes. The banter isn’t quite on the movie’s level (tbh what is on that movie’s level?), BUT you still get snark, a lady lead who’s probably the most intelligent and competent person on the field, a roguish sort of travel companion/love interest, cursed artifacts, and DANGER.
This book, then, was pretty much a perfect fit for me, and if you’re looking for The Mummy but in the shape of a book, this might just do it for you!
For one, we have Theodora Fox, daughter of famous treasure hunter Richard “Damn” Fox, who maybe hasn’t been the best dad. She’s clever and loves crosswords and ciphers, and she’s FURIOUS that her dad no longer brings her with him on expeditions in the wake of her mother’s death. Instead, he brings Huck Gallagher, who’s a little bit roguish and also prepared to protect Theo no matter what kind of danger drifts her way as a result of her father’s actions (not that she particularly wants protecting when she’d much rather be in on the danger).
And on top of Theo and Huck’s back and forth snark and Theo’s relentless forward charge through the woods and villages of Romania, we also have a dose of artifacts connected to Vlad the Impaler, topped off with some plot twists I saw coming and a couple more that I DIDN’T see on the horizon. Really, it was an excellent example of predictable plot twists getting an “I KNEW IT” reaction that distracted me from solving bigger plot twists. Professional misdirection at its finest, sprinkled with the historical and the fantastic to make an excellent adventure blend!
That said, a couple things about the book gave me a little pause. For starters, Huck was sort of adopted into the Fox family about five or six years ago (when he and Theodora were about twelve and eleven respectively), after his parents died and Theodora’s mom had also died. It feels more than a little weird that he’s Theodora’s love interest, given that adopted siblings are still siblings, and at the same time, it also never really feels like he was adopted so much as Richard Fox pulled Huck into the family to make him work for treasure hunting purposes once he was a little older, and because this is the kid of an old family friend.
This book also spends a lot of time stuck in the travel narrative. Theodora is always trying to put the pieces together as she goes, and she does make some breakthroughs along the way, but the pace can take a somewhat slower turn now and again as she and Huck navigate their way through Romania. I’m not terribly bothered by it (done right, I think you can still manage a lot of plot even if your characters are stuck on the road), but I know this is something that can irritate the hell out of some folks, so I totally understand being a little more wary of picking up the book knowing that it is a little travel heavy.
And finally, I think the ending was perhaps a bit rushed, a consequence of some of the early plot points being whipped through to facilitate all the traveling. As a standalone, I suppose I expected that (it’s been a while since I read a standalone that doesn’t leave some things feeling a little too quickly resolved), but I do wish the final scenes hadn’t felt so fast, and that a couple early points (like most of Theodora’s thoughts about her mother and such) felt like they had stronger resolution.
Come to think of it, I think I should also mention that while it fits the 1937 time period, the fact that Theodora’s dad is a treasure hunter doesn’t sit super well with me. He’s a thief, plain and simple, and not so much the endearing kind with good motives that I get attached to. It’s just theft for private collections of rich folks and I’m not a huge fan. Then again, it’s pretty clear in the text that Richard Fox is not exactly a great dude, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Overall, though, The Lady Rogue was fun and light, and I think I’d probably read it again for fun once enough time has passed. If you think this book is one for you too, be sure to place a preorder or library request soon, or pick it up when it hits shelves September 3rd, just under a week from now!