Dangerous Remedy was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, promising an action-packed take on Revolutionary France full of queer rep and weird science!
Book: Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn
Read before: No
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Zephyr Books. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Injury and stitches, medical experimentation including in pregnancy, parental death, guillotining.
This book certainly starts with a bang and races along from there! We meet the squad, the Battalion of Death, who are a gang of teenagers who undertake prison breaks for a price, as they take on what they think will be a normal job – but things start going wrong almost immediately. Their hot air balloon sets on fire, they end up having to blow a hole in the side of the prison, and their rescuee turns out to be a girl who can control electricity. You’re really thrown into the middle of things, and it sets the tone for a very dramatic ride. The plot rollicks through betrayals and heists, with a heavy dose of weird science, as if The Count of Monte Cristo were smashed up with Frankenstein and reworked into a Bond film. If we were focusing just on the action, I would say this was great!
Unfortunately, I struggled to connect to any of the characters. I never really got a sense of who they were, and I wish I could say that this is because of the immediacy of the plot. While things do move fast, and more time is spent on heists and action than introspection, there are still several moments that are clearly meant to be full of emotion and character development, and to be honest, they left me cold. I actively disliked the main character, Camille – I thought she was selfish, naive, and endangered others unnecessarily, and I couldn’t understand why all the (female-attracted) characters were in love with her! The others in the squad were all cool ideas for characters – guilt-ridden gay ex-aristocrat Al, scientifically-minded and capable Ada, sweet ex-army boy Guillaume – but I felt we really only got shallow glimpses of their characters, even Ada, who has viewpoint sections. Everyone seemed a little too self-aware, often stating their emotions in dialogue, which meant that it was hard to empathise with them. When I was supposed to be getting emotional over their relationships, I was mostly just waiting for the next bit of action.
The central romance is F/F, and given that I had heard it was going to be a bi love triangle, I was surprised to find that Camille and Ada were already an established couple at the start of the book. I loved that! It’s nice to see sapphic rep that doesn’t require any explanation or awkwardness to set up. Al is also gay, though we don’t see him have any romance, and there is some nice casual queerness among background characters. There is a love triangle of sorts, but it’s nice that it’s much more about actions and misunderstandings than droopy pining or inability to choose, so that was a real plus!
I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘sins of the father’ theme that ran throughout the book. Almost all the characters have huge issues with their parents, who range from revolutionaries to royalists, and the emotional dilemmas of the main squad stemmed in large part from attempts to live up to, or deny, their parents’ values. I would have loved to have seen the characters have a little more independence in their thoughts, as the fact that this was a trait for all of them meant that it felt a little bit repetitive and heavy-handed, and also led to a sense of inevitability and resignedness in their own behaviour that took some of the sparkle out of the action for me.
Ultimately, this is a fun read, and should find a lot of fans among those looking for more heist fiction in YA. It was just a little lacking in depth for me, and felt a little bit too unsubtle in what it was trying to do. I did enjoy it, and I recommend it to those looking for a quick, entertaining read, but I think for me, it only gets three and a half cats.