Our second article in the ongoing feature Why You Should Read… is by Adam Christopher, published author and blogger. He can be found on Twitter as @ghostfinder. He has chosen to talk about Cherie Priest.
(Pic courtesy of Caitlin Kittredge)
As a writer, reading the work of others elicits one of two reactions. As John D. MacDonald once said, you read everything with grinding envy or a weary contempt.
Take Cherie Priest. I hate her. I hate the fact that whenever I pick up one of her books I know my heart will be skipping beats before I’m at the end of the first page. I hate that fact that she’s good, really good, that she writes with an ease and a maturity born of a natural talent for words, something which only a few truly have. I should be so lucky. Cherie Priest is a rare thing.
I found her by accident, although I’d been aware of her work for a while, my eye having been caught by the spooky covers of her Eden Moore trilogy. But Boneshaker was my first foray. I’m a fan of steampunk who is tired of cliché, and Boneshaker was a breath of fresh air. It’s unique: a must-read for steampunk fans because it’s a great steampunk novel; a must-read for people who hate steampunk because it’s not really a steampunk novel at all; a must-read for people who have never read steampunk because it will show you what is possible with the genre.
Boneshaker might have been Priest’s breakthrough, but steampunk isn’t all she does. Her writing is informed heavily by her surroundings – the Eden Moore trilogy (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Wings to the Kingdom, Not Flesh nor Feathers) is a masterpiece of Southern Gothic set in and around Tennessee, where she went to college. Fathom, her stand-alone urban-contemporary-monster-fantasy is set in Florida, where she was raised. Boneshaker and the Clockwork Century have their foundations around Seattle, where she now lives. For fans of speculative fiction and fantasy, Priest has something for everyone. Indeed, away from the ongoing novels set in the Clockwork Century, she’s about to launch an urban fantasy series with Bloodshot, which Priest describes as an “adventure novel about a neurotic vampire/thief and her wealthy blind client, now with Bonus! Cuban drag queen and military intrigue.” Sold!
So what makes Cherie Priest so worthy of my grinding envy? It’s hard to pin it down, really. She’s good, no bones about it, but the why and the how is something else, something down to that indefinable X-factor that more often or not exists between the lines. One word to describe her prose is that it’s easy. That’s not to say simple – far from it. It’s dark and complex and tinged with that kind of melancholy that makes your spine tingle. But her words roll off the page with a rhythm that can take your breath away. She’s a master of character but also a master of action, and is not afraid to splash blood and gore around when the horror requires it.
Cherie Priest is good, really good. Start with Boneshaker, then go explore her back catalogue. Her star rising, so come join the fun, right now. You won’t regret it.
If you would like to contribute an author feature, please contact me (Amanda).