Note: I wrote this review in April, intending to post it along with reviews of other books. However, those reviews aren’t even finished. Last night, I was looking through my drafts for something else and here I found this one all done! I needed to get it posted, already, because this book is wonderful and sadly not well-known, at least to the people I know. Hopefully tons of people are obsessed with this book somewhere.
I grabbed this book at the library as I walked through the YA section because it looked interesting. (I find a lot of books that way.) The person on the cover reminded me of both Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl) and Deryn Sharp (the Leviathan series). However, Artemis is a boy and Deryn is a girl (who disguises herself as a boy), so that made me wonder who the person on the cover was.
That person is Violet, who disguises herself as her twin brother, Ashton, in order to be admitted to Illyria College in London, which in the 1880s only admits boys. Violet has always been interested in science, and is so desperate to go to this school that she will do anything, even if she gets found out and is imprisoned.
The plot gets really funny when both Cecily (the Duke’s niece) and the Duke of Illyria himself both fall in love with ‘Ashton’, who is of course actually Violet. Darkness is added when while sneaking around the off-limits basement one night, the students discover creepy automatons and have to figure out who created them. This is certainly one of the nerdiest books I have read in a while. It is filled with science, inventions, and experiments.
Apparently, All Men of Genius was inspired by Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare and The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I’ve read some Shakespeare and Wilde before, but not that play and that book, so I’m probably missing most of the parallels and references. All I know is that Violet equals Viola (Twelfth Night) and Malcolm Volio equals Malvolio (also Twelfth Night). But I only know about those two because I found that comparison on the Internet somewhere. So those two are going on my to-read list.
All Men of Genius is a strange but wonderful combination of genres and plot ideas. The inventions remind me of Artemis Fowl, the steampunk and girl-disguised-as-boy remind me of Leviathan, Illyria reminds me of Hogwarts, and the whole book reminds me of Kiki Strike, though it has almost nothing in common except that both books combine many genres. I love that the novel has multiple perspectives: Violet (duh!), Ashton, the Duke, Miriam (why doesn’t she have more chapters?), Cecily, Ada, and more. That’s something you don’t get until late in the Harry Potter series, when you’re treated to a few chapters from the point of view of the Death Eaters.
I have just a few complaints about the book, all about the ending. The author never really tied things up between Ashton and Antony. I could probably let that go, but then Rosen doesn’t even mention Ashton in the last chapter! All the other important characters are in that last scene, except for Ashton. Since he’s sort of Violet’s brother and just kind of important to the story (sarcasm), I thought he would be there. What the heck, Rosen?! You don’t have a character help the other characters immensely and be a huge part of your book, only to forget about him at the end. I also wish that Miriam had more stuff at the end. So, I still think it’s weird that the main character’s brother suddenly disappears, but the other complaints are just little things, really. Someone else could read All Men of Genius and not have the same objections that I do, except for hopefully the absent Ashton.
Second note, added later: Um. I commented on the author’s blog about this, and he said that it mentions her brother, but not by name. So… sorry about that. Wow, I just devoted a whole paragraph to complaining about Ashton.
My favorite characters are Miriam, Cecily, Ashton (the real Ashton), and the Duke of Illyria, who is rather lovable in a dorky way. Violet is nice but I would rather be friends with the other characters. Back to the Duke. He bumbles through the story, always feeling either totally confused about everything or like he doesn’t measure up to what he thinks everyone else thinks he should be. I want to hug him for that, but then he would be even more confused, so I won’t.
This book feels like it was written a long time ago, like something you’d discover on a shelf at your grandparents’ house. I checked it out, forgot about it, then picked it up one day when I needed something to read. I literally could not put it down. I must have picked it up at about 7 in the evening, and I stayed up until about midnight reading. And yet I still didn’t finish it. (It’s almost 500 pages.) The next day, when we had to run some errands, I brought it everywhere we went so I would know how the story finished. I wonder if my friend Katelyn will have this same reaction in a few days, as I sent her a copy for a 16th birthday present and she’s promised not to open it until her birthday.
I think the novel is probably best for readers around my own age or older, as there is swearing and stuff. Like a bunny/parrot combination that has a really bad mouth. Which I found amusing. Basically, I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate for teenagers in it. In terms of plot and characters and all that, though, I don’t think All Men of Genius is only a YA book. It’s not stupid or juvenile or dorky. I hope adults would enjoy it as well.
I was happy to see that Rosen’s website is hosted by WordPress, and you can also read his blog here. I thought he would have some fancy-shmancy website, but it’s just WordPress; I suppose because it’s simple and cheap and he is a new author, after all. (No offense meant!) Anyway, I like that he imagines who would play his characters because so do I. By the way, I have a suggestion. If you’re reading this and your name happens to be Lev AC Rosen, have you considered Colin Firth as the Duke? He looks like how the Duke is described, and there’s just something about Firth’s facial expressions (at least in The King’s Speech) that reminds me of the Duke’s awkwardness.
And isn’t it simultaneously awkward and awesome when you catch typos in a published author’s writing? I believe ‘extreme’ has an R, and you didn’t capitalize the first letter of the first word in some of your quotes. Thankfully, the book is nothing like this. Well, maybe there were 5 or so typos, but that’s pretty good for a nearly-500-page book. I guess I’m just picky because I proofread and edit my posts several times over, usually. And I’m just goofing around with my typo critiquing anyway, since I am linking back to his blog several times and a real live author did find my review of his book, so I’m kind of wondering if Rosen will comment! Now, if only I could get J.K. Rowling to find my blog… (OK, yes, I did add this part after April!)
Lev AC Rosen is a man of genius. There are very few books that I love so much I want to marry. There are a ton of books that I would date, I suppose, but not very many that I want to marry. (I’m not insane at all!) This was a bit of a gushing book review, but I think it really deserves it, as I don’t usually gush about books. I reserve that for really special books.
I hope he’s writing another book, especially a sequel! If not, I may have to resort to my often-used coercion techniques of beating someone over the head with a picture book or threatening them with Neville.