Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
If you're a reader who can't get enough of crumbling antebellum mansions, dark family secrets, and muggy Southern weather, you'll enjoy Four and Twenty Blackbirds. This Southern Gothic ghost story was Cherie Priest's first novel, and while it's imperfect, it's quite readable and shows a lot of promise.
Set in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Four and Twenty Blackbirds possesses a strong, tangible sense of place. I once spent a brief time in Chattanooga during the summer, and Priest took me right back. She has a knack for the sensory detail that makes a book's setting come to life. A particularly vivid scene is one in which the heroine, Eden, explores a crumbling hospital in search of clues to her family's past.
And what a past it is. Eden's family history is filled with all the baggage you might expect from... Read More
Cherie Priest(1975- )
Cherie Priest’s short stories and nonfiction articles have appeared in Weird Tales, Subterranean Magazine, Publishers Weekly, and the Stoker-nominated anthology Aegri Somnia from Apex. Though she spent most of her life in the southeast, she presently lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and a fat black cat. You can read excerpts of her novels at Cherie Priest’s website.
Eden Moore — (2003-2007) Publisher: Although she was orphaned at birth, Eden Moore is never alone. Three dead women watch from the shadows, bound to protect her from harm. But in the woods a gunman waits, convinced that Eden is destined to follow her wicked great-grandfather an African magician with the power to curse the living and raise the dead. Now Eden must decipher the secret of the ghostly trio before a new enemy more dangerous than the fanatical assassin destroys what is left of her family. She will sift through lies in a Georgian antebellum mansion and climb through the haunted ruins of a nineteenth century hospital, desperately seeking the truth that will save her beloved aunt from the curse that threatens her life.
Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
The Clockwork Century — (2009-2013) These are stand-alones set in the same world with some overlapping characters. From Priest’s website: [The Clockwork Century is] an alternate-history world setting created by Cherie Priest. Here, it is 1880 (or thereabouts). The Civil War is still underway, drawn out by English interference, a different transportation infrastructure, and a powerful Republic of Texas that discovered oil at Spindletop some fifty years sooner than real life allowed. The competition of war has led to technological progress and horrors unimaginable, and many people have fled the combating states, hoping for an easier life out west. Some of them have found it. Some have found something else.
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
CLASSIFICATION: Set in an alternate history Seattle, sometime around the year 1880, Boneshaker is a steampunk-flavored adventure that incorporates elements of zombie horror, pulp fiction and post-apocalyptic retrofuturism. Think The Wild Wild West meets Fallout (a videogame series) meets George Romero...
FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 416 pages divided over 28 numbered chapters, an Epilogue, and an excerpt from Unlikely Episodes in Western History which serves as the prologue. The book also includes a map and an Author’s Note regarding the historical and geographical liberties taken in the novel. Narration is in the third-person, alternating between Briar Wilkes and her son Ezekiel, with biographer Hale Quarter providing the bookends. Boneshaker is self-contained, but is the first volume in theCLOCKWORK CENTURY Read More
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, is set in your typical steampunk, alternate-history, Civil-War period world, more precisely Seattle. Or actually, what’s left of Seattle after an experimental mining machine seemingly went out of control, tunneling under the city and releasing a strange yellow gas that turned folks into zombies. Cut to a few years later and Briar Wilkes, the widow of the inventor of the machine (whom all assume died in the city) is eking out a hardscrabble life on the “Outskirts” with her son Ezekiel, though it’s tough thanks to the ignominy of their husband/father. Ezekiel, in an attempt to clear his father’s name, decides to enter the now-walled-off city, braving the zombies to try and clear his father’s name. Briar, showing her maternal instinct, goes in to rescue him. And unexpected adventures occur.
The plot is fast-paced but not b... Read More
Clementine by Cherie Priest
One of the most entertaining novels I read in 2009 was Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Full of exciting cross-genre adventure (zombies, steampunk, post-apocalyptic retrofuturism), memorable characters and a cool twist on American history, Boneshaker was a blast to read. I couldn’t wait to see what else Cherie Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY had to offer. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long thanks to Subterranean Press and their publication of Clementine.
Clementine is a 208 page novella that expands on characters and events briefly introduced in Boneshaker, specifically runaway slave Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey and the theft of his airship, the Read More
Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
CLASSIFICATION: The Clockwork Century series is set in an alternate history America, circa 1880, flavored with steampunk, western, intrigue, and horror.
FORMAT/INFO: Dreadnought is 400 pages long divided over twenty-two numbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person, exclusively via the nurse, Mercy Lynch. Dreadnought is self-contained, but loosely connected to Boneshaker and Clementine, the first two volumes in the Clockwork Century series. September 28, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of Dreadnought via Tor. The beautiful cover art is provided by Jo... Read More
Dreadnought by Cherie Priest
Dreadnought is Cherie Priest’s follow-up to Boneshaker. Sort of. While it takes place in the same alternate America at roughly the same time, and while we see a few familiar characters by the end of the story, Dreadnought is an otherwise indirect sequel. Instead, Priest introduces Mercy Swakhammer (yes, his daughter for Boneshaker readers), a nurse at a Confederate hospital during the decades-long Civil War.
Mercy’s adventure begins after she receives two important pieces of news. First, her Union husband has been killed. Second, her father is near death out in Seattle, and though he abandoned Mercy and her mother while she was still a child, he is desperate to see her once more. The first leaves her free to do what she wishes with her life and the second propels her on ... Read More
Ganymede by Cherie Priest
CLASSIFICATION: The Clockwork Century series is set in an alternate history America circa 1880, flavored with elements of steampunk, horror, intrigue, and Western pulp.
FORMAT/INFO: Ganymede is 352 pages long divided over 17 numbered chapters. Also includes a Map and an Author’s Note discussing the actual history used in the book. Narration is in the third-person, alternating between the prostitute Josephine Early and the air pirate captain Andan Cly. Ganymede is self-contained, but is connected to the previous volumes (Boneshaker, Dreadnought) in the Clockwork Century series. A couple of matters are left unresolved in Ganymede, but hopefully they will be explored in the next Read More
Ganymede by Cherie Priest
When Hollywood makes a movie of Ganymede — and they have to — I hope they subtitle it “The Battle of Barataria Bay.” That sequence comes near the end of Cherie Priest’s latest CLOCKWORK CENTURY novel, and is fasten-your-seatbelt, grip-the-arms-of-your-chair exciting.
Priest’s books always feature strong women, and in Ganymede, the main character is Josephine Early. Josephine lives in New Orleans, running an upscale bordello. Nearly twenty years into the American civil war, the Confederacy is having trouble holding New Orleans and has called on its political ally the Republic of Texas to help occupy the city. Early’s hometown is filled with brown-shirted Lone Star soldiers and administrators, and she has grown to hate them. As a free woman of color, she is all too conscious of how easily she can los... Read More
The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest
The Inexplicables is the fifth book in Cherie Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY series. This one returns to its roots, the walled, Blight-ridden city of Seattle. It’s 1881, and the American Civil War is still going on. Eighteen years earlier, a powerful mining device tapped into a vein of gas deep into the earth, and the gas spilled out into Seattle, killing most people and turning them into “rotters” or zombies. The source of the outbreak (downtown Seattle) was walled off and abandoned, but some brave souls still go in there. Mostly, they go to syphon up the Blight gas and distill it into a deadly drug called sap.
Rector Sherman is a sap addict and an orphan who has just turned eighteen. He is being evicted from the Catholic orphanage on the outskirts of the walled city. That isn’t Rector’s only problem. He’s also haunted by the ghost of Zeke Wi... Read More
The Cheshire Red Reports — (2010-2011) Urban fantasy. Publisher: VAMPIRE FOR HIRE. Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn’t usually hang with her own kind. She’s too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels. But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist — even though Ian doesn’t want precious artifacts. He wants her to retrieve missing government files — documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind. What Raylene doesn’t bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta. And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her trail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride.
Bloodshot by Cherie Priest
I was pretty excited to read Bloodshot. I first encountered Cherie Priest by way of her Southern Gothic novel Four and Twenty Blackbirds several years ago. Since then, her name keeps popping back up in my consciousness, both as a writer of several acclaimed steampunk novels I haven’t had the chance to read yet, and as a Person Who Says Interesting Things on the Internet. So when I heard she was dipping her authorial toes into one of my favorite subgenres, urban fantasy, I knew this was a book I wanted to read. Bloodshot did not disappoint. In fact, I may gush a bit, because this book is darn near flawless.
Priest introduces an unforgettable heroine in Raylene Pendle, a vampire who originally died in the Roaring Twenties and makes her living as a world... Read More
Bloodshot by Cherie Priest
Cherie Priest’s Bloodshot is fun. It’s not a long read, under 100,000 words. It is not Priest’s best book, (I still think that’s Boneshaker) but with summer coming, this witty urban fantasy would be a good choice for an upcoming vacation.
Raylene Pender, the first-person narrator, is a vampire and a master thief who is hired by another vampire, Ian, to steal some mysterious papers from a government facility. The papers contain information on the mysterious subject of a secret government experiment: Ian himself. The caper turns out to be more complicated, and more personal, than Raylene expects.
Priest seems to be still working out both the biological and political systems that support her vampires. Her vampires are only “mostly dead.” Raylene talks about the fact that her metabolism still works, just very slow... Read More
Hellbent by Cherie Priest
Cherie Priest gets Big Imagination points for the potent magical artifacts she conjures up in Hellbent, the second Cheshire Red Reports novel. I’m not going to spoil the fun for you by telling you what they are; you’ll know by the end of the first chapter.
Priest introduced vampire thief Raylene Pendle in Bloodshot, along with Raylene’s charges, two street kids who were squatting in one of her warehouses; and Ian, a vampire who has been mysteriously blinded and can control the weather. We also met Raylene’s new sometimes-partner Adrian, an ex-Navy SEAL who is also a drag queen. Adrian/Sister Rose is one of the best urban fantasy sidekicks around. He’s tough, badass and really knows how to accessorize. This time, he’s willing to help Raylene because she might help him find his vampire sister.
Raylene’s assignm... Read More
Fathom by Cherie Priest
Fathom is an entertaining horror novel once it gets going. Cherie Priest spends the first 100 pages of Fathom setting a scene, complete with pages upon pages of infodumps. One character will tell another character a story about a third character, for instance, or a character will have a prolonged recollection of a scene from his past. In addition, the time in which the novel is set does not become apparent until the last few chapters of the novel. A reader could easily conclude that the novel is set in the present day until the last 50 pages or so, when suddenly that appears not to be so, and all that has gone before must be reassessed. The Cherie Priest of Fathom does not seem to be the assured writer who turned out the superior Four and Twenty Blackbirds.
Priest starts ... Read More
Fathom by Cherie Priest
If Sam squinted, he could make out a shape at the top of the steeple; but it was difficult to identify. He was just concluding that it was the strangest rendering of the Virgin Mary he’d ever seen when the front door creaked open and a tall, gray-haired man emerged.
Summer’s here, and it’s time for those summertime reads. You know the ones — the big splashy adventure books, perfect for a few hours out on the deck, in the folding chair on the camping trip, or on a towel by the pool or at the beach.May I recommend Fathom, by Cherie Priest? Oh, wait, perhaps Fathom is not the perfect book for the beach or the pool, since the antagonist, Arahab, is a powerful water witch determined to destroy life as we know it and who can manifest wherever there is standing or running water.Priest’s point of inspiration is the Bok Singing Tower, an ... Read More
Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest
Those Who Went Remain There Still is a short Southern Gothic horror novel by Cherie Priest which I listened to in audio format. The story follows two plotlines told in alternating chapters. One is excerpts from Daniel Boone’s Reflections Upon the Wilderness Road which he wrote while leading a group of trailblazers across Kentucky. Every night, Boone and his men are being stalked, picked off, and eaten by a huge bird-like monster.
The second plotline follows the history of Daniel Boone’s descendants in the rural Kentucky area where Boone met the monster. They’re an inbred, ignorant and nasty lot that’s been split into two feuding families. A couple of the family members from each side manage to “escape” by running away, eventually acquiring some education, and progressing to a new standard of living. Each is called home years later when the family patriarch die... Read More
Mythic II edited by Mike Allen
Much like its predecessor Mythic, Mythic 2 feels compact and precise. Both the prose and poetry (and everything else in between) are easy to read and have a lyrical tonality. The anthology is even and consistent, with no sudden drops or spikes in the quality. Editor Mike Allen also continues the format of alternating between both mediums, which makes the book work.
For the most part, I found the poems to be decent and the fiction enjoyable. Mythic 2 continues the tradition of weaving or re-inventing fairy tales, legends, and myths and infusing them with the sensibilities of the various authors. This isn't a long anthology, but the quality more than makes up for the brevity. I really liked all of the prose and appreciated the poetry but I think the former wins out overall, at least in this volume of ... Read More
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is the second steampunk anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, following 2008’s first installment. It contains about twice as many stories as its predecessor, but unlike the first collection the quality is more uneven here, resulting in a less impressive but still fascinating anthology that should please fans of the genre.
While the first anthology only contained one story I was less than happy with, there are at least four or five in Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded that I could have done without. There are also a few stories here that are at best marginally connected to steampunk, although that probably depends more on how you define steampunk. After all, there are probably as many definitions of steampunk as there are readers. Maybe the best way to defin... Read More
Dreadful Skin — (2007) Publisher: I ducked into a niche between a cabin and the pilot house and hiked my skirt up enough to reach down into my garter holster. I’ve heard it said that God made all men, but Samuel Colt made all men equal. We’d see what Mr. Colt could do for a woman. Jack Gabert went to India to serve his Queen. He returned to London a violently changed man, infected with an unnatural sickness that altered his body and warped his mind. Eileen Callaghan left an Irish convent with a revolver and a secret. She knows everything and nothing about Jack’s curse, but she cannot rest until he’s caught. His soul cannot be saved. It can only be returned to God. In the years following the American Civil War, the nun and unnatural creature stalk one another across the United States. Their dangerous game of cat and mouse leads them along great rivers, across dusty plains, and into the no man’s land of the unmarked western territories. Here are three tales of the hunt. Reader, take this volume and follow these tormented souls. Learn what you can from their struggle against each other, against God, and against themselves.
Cherie Priest has written ghost stories, monster stories, tales of the Elder Gods, urban fantasy and steampunk, but she is probably best known for the EDEN MOORE series, and for Boneshaker and the subsequent books in her CLOCKWORK CENTURY series. The Inexplicables, the fifth book in that series, was released earlier this fall. In addition to moving from Seattle to Chattanooga, Tennessee, Priest just finished up a book promotion tour, but she found time in her schedule to answer a few of my questions for Fanlit. Priest has donated an autographed copy of The Inexplicables for one random commenter (with a U.S. address) to win.
Marion Deeds: You have the EDEN MOORE series, the CHESHIRE RED REPORTS with Raylene Pendel, and the CLOCKWORK CENTURY Read More