Published by Tor Teen on February 11, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Jodie Lynn Zdrok's Sensational is the thrilling follow-up to Spectacle in which a killer haunts the Paris World's Fair of 1889.
The 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is full of innovations, cultural displays, and inventions. Millions of visitors attend over the course of several months...so no one would notice if a few were missing, right? Maybe—but someone is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the guillotine with a display of their own: beheaded victims in some of the Exposition's most popular exhibits.
Nathalie Baudin’s ability to see murder scenes should help, but she's suffering the effects of her magic more than ever before. Fortunately she has other Insightfuls to team up with—if they can be trusted.
Ugh. I hate it when I go into a book expecting a standalone or first in a series only to find out pages in that it’s the 2nd or 3rd book! That’s what happened to me with Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok though. So it automatically had points against it when I figured this out (I was only on page 3).
The story begins with Nathalie meeting her two friends, Simone and Louis at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It’s there that a decapitated head is discovered among the exhibits, displayed upon a pedestal. Nathalie is an Insightful and has visions of murder scenes, which she uses in her role of reporter for a local newspaper but she also helps out the police at the morgue.
Through no fault of her own, the head is put into her hands and Nathalie is transported to the murder scene. She’s no longer herself, but the killer. Trapped in a man’s body as he commits the murder.
Nathalie’s visions of murder scenes – which began with the Dark Artist murders in 1887 – came from placing her hand on the viewing pane at the morgue, in the room where the public viewed the bodies. For every vision, she lost a memory, however, ranging from a few minutes to several hours.
Obviously, this isn’t a pleasant experience. It’s even more especially unpleasant since her visions cost her dearly. Using her Insightful ability isn’t without its costs. And the memory of the murder (or any murder she witnesses using her gift) steals her own memories. This is made worse when she touches the dead body directly instead of simply viewing it through glass at the morgue. The direct contact can cost her days lost forever in her memory.
I’m not sure if it’s just because I didn’t read the first book or what, but I had a hard time getting fully committed to this story. In the beginning, it seemed like it was just one coincidence after another setting things up. I was constantly thinking…
I enjoyed it for the most part, but it left me with the feeling of “could’ve been better” as we follow Nathalie through the story, trying to use her ability to track down a serial killer who kills using a guillotine.
The second half of the book was better for me than the first. It wasn’t too hard to read as a standalone so in the end, I wasn’t TOO upset about not realizing it was a sequel. As with the start of the story, the ending was a little “too convenient” for my liking and I could’ve done without the epilogue altogether.
Nathalie isn’t the only Insightful helping out at the morgue. There’s also her boyfriend, Jules. They have a seemingly sweet relationship but Nathalie is actually still (unsuccessfully) getting over her feelings for Christophe, the police liaison at the morgue (at least, I think that’s his job? ). This really rubbed me the wrong way with Nathalie because I thought it was really wrong how she did Jules. He’s a sweet and caring guy and considering the time period incredibly okay with Nathalie’s independence and reckless streak.
Probably my favorite part of this book, and my favorite character, was Nathalie’s Aunt Brigitte. She’s an Insightful as well, but her “gift” has landed her in a mental asylum. A whole other book could be written about Brigitte. I’d definitely read that!!
Overall, like the book, I thought the characters were “okay.” They could’ve been developed more but honestly, I just didn’t connect with them all that much. At times, Nathalie annoyed me and came across as too spoiled for the time she’s living in.
Again, this could be because I didn’t read the first book.
Sensational by Jodie Lynn Zdrok was an okay read. It wasn’t too hard to read as a standalone and it kept my attention but isn’t something I’ll be reading again or that made me want to read the first book.