Fantasy · historical fiction · Horror

Deep Roots – Ruthanna Emrys

5 Stars

The sequel to the stunning Winter Tide, Deep Roots explores more of Lovecraft’s mythos. Aphra and her confluence are on the trail of a mist-blooded relative and find so much more than they expected.

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Cover from Goodreads

Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives on land. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery or risk seeing her way of life slip away.

Deep Roots wrestles with so many of the things we wrestle with in our own lives, especially when confronted with our loved ones choosing paths we’d rather they didn’t. How do we believe that they haven’t been coerced? When is it right to let someone go, and when do we cling to them and hope they forgive us at the end? When is it right to walk away, to call someone out, or to ask them to reexamine their deeply held beliefs? Now, more than any other time in the last thirty years, many of us find ourselves wrestling with these questions within our own families as political rhetoric threatens to tear us apart by othering each other into separate camps.

One of the myths that Deep Roots tackles isn’t from Lovecraft’s mythos, but rather from current Western society. Emrys shows us that the idea that “One who has been othered, can’t also be othering” is false. I see the sentiments that “I can’t be racist, I’m black” or “I can’t be a lesbophobe, I’m gay” or “I can’t be a misogynist, I’m a woman” or “I can’t be ableist, I’m also part of a marginalized community” pretty frequently. These aren’t true statements, but I hear variations of them all the time. Deep Roots explores how even groups that have been othered can have and hold othering beliefs about groups, cultures and people not their own. This is why intersectional activism is so crucial. Despite their own experiences being discriminated against Aphra and the Deep Ones hold strong beliefs about the Outer Ones that are explicitly called out as offensive within the narrative. Aphra is forced to rexamine her beliefs in order to navigate the situation at hand.

I am SO glad to get more of Aphra, Neko, Audrey, Charlie, Specter, Dawson and Caleb. Emrys writes them so vividly, the time between books felt like missing friends. Deep Roots felt like opening a letter from someone who had gone on a long trip into a remote place without technology.

I am impatiently waiting for my next letter from the Confluence. I can’t wait to see what they get up to next.

Deep Roots is on sale now!

 Thank you to Tor.com for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review. 

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Horror

Into the Drowning Deep – Mira Grant

4.5 Stars

I don’t  read a ton of horror. I have a very active imagination and my brain chooses really odd images to haunt me with for years. (YEARS) When I do read horror, I choose authors that I feel I can trust, and Mira Grant is one of those authors I know I can trust. I know her horror isn’t going to cross lines that I’m not comfortable with. I wouldn’t describe it as safe horror, just “safe enough for me.”

That being said, Into the Drowning Deep was intensely creepy, full of suspense, and definitely left me with the feeling that I’m never going to ever be comfortable on another deep-sea vessel in my life.

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Into the Drowning Deep follows Grant’s earlier novella Rolling in the Deep which is the story of how the Atargatis was lost. Into the Drowning Deep explores already dangerous territory, and they know – or at least they think they know – what they’re getting into.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves.

But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

Grant builds suspense like mist rising from the water. Over the course of minutes (pages) the fog slowly rolls in, building until suddenly you realize you’re completely engulfed. As I read through, I flipped pages at my usual rate, until the last three chapters of the book where I basically just skimmed pages because I NEEDED to know what was happening next.

As with Grant’s other horror series, part of the beauty – and horror – of her novels is that the science is so well researched that but for the fact that mermaids are not real, everything else she describes is plausible.

Another place Grant’s writing really shines is her characters. Grant understands people. She builds characters that are believable and real. Her characters are flawed people with all the trappings of humanity, and she writes inclusively as well. This cast is not 100% straight, white, able bodied and neurotypical. It’s a delight. A weird thing to say about a horror novel, I know. But the cast is so wonderfully diverse that when I think of them, I am delighted. Not all of them are delightful, there are definitely a few that I was hoping would die along the way, but the cast as a whole was a delight. What’s the point of a horror novel if you don’t care what’s going to happen to the characters?

I am desperately hoping for a third part of the story. I enjoyed Into the Drowning Deep immensely, despite my renewed fears of deep water, and have so many new questions.

Into the Drowning Deep hit shelves November 14, 2017 and if you like horror and don’t necessarily mind being afraid of mermaids, you should run out and buy it right now.

Horror

Deadlands: Boneyard – Seanan McGuire

3 stars

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review from NetGalley. 

I will be totally honest and say that Deadlands: Boneyard is not my cup of tea. I am not familiar with the Deadlands RPG system that the books are based around, but I don’t think that affected my overall enjoyment of the book.

The publisher’s blurb on NetGalley:

Step right up to see the oddities and marvels of The Blackstone Family Circus and Travelling Wonder Show! Gasp at pit wasps the size of a man’s forearm. Beware the pumpkin-headed corn stalker, lest it plant its roots in you!

Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions, drawing wide-eyed crowds at every small frontier town they visit. But Annie is also a woman running from her past . . . and the mother of a mute young daughter, Adeline, whom she will do anything to protect.

Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a travelling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.

The Clearing has it secrets, and so does Annie. And it may take everything she has to save her daughter—and the circus—from both.

McGuire does weird well, and she seamlessly blends circuses, mad scientists, steampunk, and the wild, wild wilderness in Oregon. She builds a cohesive world and interesting characters. My issue is the plot.

There are no holes, dangling threads but boy is it slow to start. I’ve read a lot of McGuire’s writing (just about everything I can get my hands on) and a slow start isn’t atypical for her, but Deadlands: Boneyard was the first where I struggled with the slow start. McGuire spends the first four chapters of the book just setting the scene. It isn’t until part of the way through the fourth chapter does the plot start to finally take shape. Once it gets going, she builds and maintains tension with skill making Deadlands: Boneyard a perfect October, pre-Halloween read.

McGuire’s writing is lyrical and descriptive, though she does sometimes get lost in metaphorical descriptions it does make for a nice turn of phrase.

If the wild, weird West is your kind of thing, Deadlands: Boneyard will be your kind of book.

Deadlands: Boneyard is a novel set in the Deadlands RPG universe and hits shelves October 17, 2017 – today!

Horror

Final Girls – Mira Grant

I received an e-ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. I also purchased a Deluxe Edition of this novella from Subterranean Press.

4 Stars

When I first started reading the book I had to keep double checking that I was reading the book that I thought I was. The opening scene is more fantasy than science fiction and similar enough to other books Mira Grant has written under her real name, Seanan McGuire, that I wasn’t sure I was reading the correct book. However, once I got through the opening scene it all made sense. But until that point, I was seriously confused. “Where is the sci-fi horror I was promised?”

A photo of the cover of Final Girls.
My copy of Final Girls.

The novella definitely has the feel of a good horror movie:  innocent enough beginning; a turning point where you want to shout at the characters, “You shouldn’t have done that and you know it. Bad stuff is going to happen and it’s all because of this One Thing!”; and creeping anxiety as you wait for the shoes to drop.

My only complaint is that I wanted more. Once the “action” part of the story began, it was over far too soon. I wanted a little bit longer to be creeped out and kept in suspense while the main characters ran and battled for their lives.

Aside from my confusion at the start, I really enjoyed Final Girls. If you’ve read other works by Mira/Seanan, some elements of the story are familiar – not in a “been there, read that” kind of way, but a more of an “I’m definitely reading a Mira/Seanan book” kind of way. I recommend this book even to people who don’t usually enjoy horror (like myself).

Mira Grant is the pen name under which Seanan McGuire writes the majority of her horror stories.

This review was originally published on Goodreads on March 31, 2017. 

Anthology · Horror

Dark Cities – Christopher Golden

Zero Stars

TW: bestiality, rape

Dark Cities is a horror anthology edited by Christopher Golden around the theme of “cities.” 

I have to seriously question the thought process of Christopher Golden in choosing to put The Dogs as the first story in this anthology. I question why it was even included in the anthology, but if it were to be included, it should not have been the first story. Yes, this is a horror anthology, but that story alone made me put the book down and walk away. It took me over a week to talk myself into picking it up again to skip to the short stories from authors I already know I like/trust. Why? Because The Dogs features a very graphic bestiality/rape scene. I was suspicious of the story as soon as the Main Character was revealed to be a sort-of sex worker. I should have stopped reading then. The first story in an anthology sets the tone, and the tone The Dogs set was unpalatable.

I skipped forward. The short story Dear Diary was good. Amber Benson’s entry was interesting but very short. Seanan McGuire’s story was creepy and sad. I did not read the other stories in this anthology, especially Golden’s own, because I couldn’t trust that the other authors wouldn’t cross lines I am uncomfortable with, and in putting The Dogs first, Golden showed me that I can’t trust him. This may be a shame. I may be missing out on some excellent short stories by other authors in this collection. I’ll never know.

This review was originally published on Goodreads on July 12, 2017.