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!

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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.