Guys, Wednesday Books never misses on the cover designs. Just take a few minutes to stare at the cover and then read my woefully inadequate review.
Thank you so much Wednesday Books for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!
It’s 1800s Edinburgh, Scotland and Hazel wants nothing more than to become a surgeon. Unfortunately, it looks like her life will be totally planned out for her. It isn’t until she receives an incredible opportunity to take the Physician’s Exam that she allows herself to hope for more but in order to to chase her dreams, she has to trust a resurrection man named Jack. As mysterious occurrences rise up in Edinburgh, Hazel and Jack will need to join forces to uncover the buried secrets hidden in their society.
Anatomy: A Love Story is a story carved straight out of the darkest corners of 1800s Scotland. If you enjoyed The Corpse Queen by Heather Herrman, then believe me when I say you’ll love this one. We follow mostly the perspective of Hazel, a girl who wishes to be a surgeon in a world where the wishes of women are often denied. We also get to see a little bit from Jack’s perspective, who’s a resurrection man and also works in a theater.
Let’s begin this chaotic review at the end, shall we? It always irks me in these sorts of novels when the ending is unrealistic. Why should there be a subtle Chosen One trope where all historical accuracies bow at the feet of our Quirky Main Character! I mean, I feel like if the author spends hours and hours and has 120 tabs open for researching and portraying history accurately, the fates of the characters should make sense, no? Luckily, Anatomy didn’t fall into this trap. The entirety of the book is spent discussing the pressures and limitations women faced in 1800s Scotland. Hazel and Jack have a complex relationship and have complex character arcs. And that’s honestly what I loved most about this story: the ending fell perfectly within the boundaries it had already established. Sure, there’s a slight dash of fantastical happenings which weren’t present in most of the book. But the last few pages were so beautifully written, I truly believe that there is not an ending out there more perfect than what Anatomy already has.
I’m a little befuddled as to why Anatomy is pitched as a love story. It’s in the description and the sub-heading. But the romance isn’t a big focus in this story. In fact, it’s not even until the end that we as readers truly feel the weight of what Jack and Hazel feel for each other. Up until this point, it’s more a story of surgeon dreams and stolen kisses. I’ve read thriller books where romance is more prevalent. Although, that’s more a knock to said thrillers than this book because Anatomy has the perfect balance of romance and plot. It’s a shame the expectations are pitched differently though.
All of this being said, the atmosphere of 1800s Scotland was wonderful! I fell into this book every time I opened up my Kindle since it’s so easy to be immersed. The author did a great job at portraying this time period and showing every gilded, high-society edge, while never shying away from the darker parts of the world where Hazel and Jack live in. The friendships in this book are also so well-written and wholesome.
Now unfortunately, I do have a few issues.
For example, Hazel and Jack never felt like real people to me. It wasn’t just that Hazel had more pagetime than Jack, it was that I could barely tell if we were even in Jack’s perspective half the time. I feel like each character had a couple of main goals, and every thought they had tied to said goals. Therefore, I never felt like the characters themselves really came alive off of the page.
I’m going to be honest here: it was hard reading this so soon after The Corpse Queen, mostly because they share so many elements and it definitely altered my expectations. Anatomy is a little less gothic than I would have hoped. The mystery is barely a mystery, it’s more or less a conversation about some strange happenings every couple of chapters. That doesn’t make Anatomy a bad book exactly. It just makes it a book that I wish I had different expectations going into.
Sometimes, I’d see sparks of writing genius. That ending that I can’t seem to shut up about? An absolutely brilliant piece of writing. Other times, this book felt so incredibly juvenile. We’d gloss over important details because apparently everything fell right into place for Hazel but then some random thing would come up that we’d spend more time on. I think this story was unsure if it wanted to be a romance, a mystery, a gothic historical novel, or a coming-of-age narrative. The romance was paced perfectly, but there wasn’t enough of it to be considered underneath the category of “love story”. I have no idea what I would even categorize this one as because the only genre it ever fully leans into is historical.
So that’s it! There were some highs and some lows to this book for sure but I think overall it’s a solid 3 stars for me. It’ll definitely appeal to so many people but I think my expectations were just too wrong for this one. You can preorder this one here, add it to Goodreads, or add it Storygraph. Tell me: are you excited for this one? What are your thoughts on the cover?