Garland's writing is dazzling. This book is almost bursting with exquisite descriptions of the darkest aspects of the Victorian society and atmospheric strangeness. Perhaps the perfect combination of surreal fantasy and engaging historical fiction.
Abel and Eve's desperate longing for acceptation, affection and appreciation really defines the story, starting a beautiful train of thoughts in the back of the reader's mind. Abel and Eve are essentially treated as animals in a Victorian freakshow; and they face mockery and disgust from the very people they thought they could trust.
In fact this is a mesmerizing tale of human cruelty, illustrated vividly by grotesque scenes of animal abuse and racism - ultimately embodied in Abel and Eve's unhappiness.
Garland seems to be going to extremes to get her point across: and the entire novel is a haunting representation of the difficulties of being different and not fitting into the stereotypical ideal created by a paranoid society. A theme which is still important to this very day.
The story moves quite slowly, it is very cryptic, mysterious and even puzzling at times. The reader never gets a chance to figure out what's going to happen, before Garland chooses to reveal it. A thin veil separates the reader from ever really seeing the plot clearly; everything consists of blurry shadows, dark silhouettes and vague hints.
"The Palace of Curiosities" can be compared to a delicate box of secrets; tempting and alluring. The reader is able to catch wondrous glimpses through a keyhole, but the key itself is never presented, and the true magnificence of the plot is never revealed. The novel has a lot of potential - but no visible outline. It simply lacks a definite purpose, a logical direction. It never allows the reader to bond with the characters and truly care for them.