Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

     The first book by Cherie Priest I read was her supernatural horror 'Fathom', about a mysterious and horrific thing from the sea. And it was creepy and fabulous, and more than slightly unsettling.
      This book, not coincidently, is about a mysterious horrific thing from the sea, which I found creepy and fabulous, and very very unsettling.
       There is more a atmosphere of doom over this book, than over 'Fathom', however, which is all to the good. As the sense of inevitable doom gives this book a strange vitality it might otherwise lack.

"Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one."
         But the why of the crime has never been firmly established. And what if there was a very good reason? What if the elder Bordens had come under the sway of a terrifying force from under the waves?

         Priest has never been a great stylist, being far more interested in telling a good story, and entertaining her readers. However, this book more than any previously uses language to set a sense of pervading doom over the story.

          As much as I liked Lizzie in the book, she wasn't my favorite character, which would be the fabulous Doctor Zollicoffer. I did want more from Emma, who's severe case of TB keeps her sidelined for most of the story, which makes her feel a bit like a wasted character to me. And the mysterious character who we see in the last chapter? Yes, I want to know more about him.

           I'm usually not a big fan of writers fictionalizing historical characters into someone other than who they were, but Priest's basic conceit, that the elder gods of Cthulhu were involved, make this more of an alternate history, and I think this works really really well in this case. The Massachusetts of Priest's imagining is a fitting tribute to Lovecraft's mythos, and far better written than Lovecraft ever managed.

Managed expectations:
        Did I mention that atmosphere of inevitable doom? Yes, Priest gave more, far more, than promised. And I hope that we get to see more of Lizzie and her fight against the corruption that rises from the seas in Massachusetts.

In closing, this is a fantastic book that was a quick read and really enjoyable.  I haven't read a Lovecraft mythos book this good in quite a while.  I hope that the follow-up volume in the Borden Dispatches is as good, and I look forward to it.

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