Sep 052014

Cover for Maplecroft by Cherie Priest. A woman's whose blond hair is in a proper Victorian updo has her back to us as she stands between two forebodingly lit marble columns. She is wearing a fancy blue Victorian dress. In her left hand, held slightly behind her, she holds a bloody ax.Romantic Times: Priest takes the epistolary format H.P. Lovecraft was fond of and uses it to far better effect, both in terms of characterization and horror. Her protagonists (Lizzie, her sister, her lover Nance O’Neil and the friendly Dr. Seabury) are extremely well drawn even as the nerve and mind-shredding events of 1895 drive them apart. Priest skillfully makes the menace around them specific and concrete while also remaining shadowy and unknowable, achieving maximum impact. Putting real historical characters in genre settings is an idea that’s seemed tired for a while, but this novel shows how compelling it can still be in the right hands.

The people of Fall River are fairly certain that Lizzie Borden murdered her father and stepmother with an axe. What only Lizzie and her consumptive sister, Emma, know is that she did so in self-defense. Something had changed their parents and it’s starting to change others, warping bodies and minds, resulting in a spate of atrocities and strange creatures prowling the grounds of Maplecroft, their estate, at night. Something from the sea. Something that won’t stop until it finally gets out.