When I received Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice in the mail, I was really excited. I absolutely love historical fiction and I’ve never read anything about this time period before. I’ve been to the New York City Madame Tussaud’s a few times and have always thought it was really cool, so I couldn’t wait to read a story about this famous and intriguing character. And look at that cover!! Gorgeous.
Ultimately, the book ended up being not as great as I’d hoped it was going to be. I was looking for a story that was going to come alive in my hands and be very detailed with the setting and characters — but I didn’t find that in Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice. Even though some of the things in this book were gruesome and definitely require an older audience because of that (Madame Tussaud became well known by creating wax versions of the heads of the King and Queen of France after they were beheaded by the guillotine), a lot of the book felt like it was Middle Grade, not Young Adult, which I think had a lot to do with the fact that the author drastically altered the time period of the French Revolution so that she could fit the whole thing in just 220 pages, so the details of it all are only vaguely sketched out for the reader.
I also felt like the characters were very weak. I didn’t really connect to any of them, because there wasn’t a lot of time spend on character development. We’re given reasons as to why we should pity each of them, but they never jumped off the page for me. None of them seemed real, so I had trouble caring about them.
I also, unfortunately, felt like the story was a little boring. It got more exciting towards the end, which was my favorite part, but throughout the beginning and the middle, very little happens. I did enjoy the scenes in which Celie drew for Madame, though, because I found her photographic memory to be a great addition to her character and very interesting to read about.
Another problem I have with the book is how it sort of seemed to change as the story went on. In the beginning, two things are very important to Celie — (1) her verging-on-romantic relationship with Algernon, and (2) getting revenge on the man who is responsible for killing her family. But those motivations quickly recede and aren’t really brought up again until almost the very last page, in which her relationship with Algernon has somewhat of a resolution (sort of), and Algernon breaks some news about the location of the King’s brother. It was so strange…like the author forgot about what she was supposed to be writing about, started talking about some other stuff, and then quickly decided to add something in about them at the end so it could all be wrapped up. The whole thing just seemed a little weird.
I think that I would possibly be interested in reading more from this author in the future, because the story did have a lot of potential and I liked her interpretation of Madame Tussaud, but I was a little disappointed in this one and really wish that I could’ve enjoyed it more. I think that maybe I’m just used to more of an adult version of historical fiction rather than this kind of “watered-down” version that’s geared more towards younger readers.