Monday, March 28, 2016


Fiddlehead: A Penny Dreadful Review

            It has finally happened. I have spilt tea on a book. The unfortunate victim of this tragedy is Fiddlehead, by Cherie Priest. Fortuitously, my copy of Fiddlehead was still readable, so I read it, tea stains and all.
            Cherie Priest’s epic Clockwork Century series, which began with Boneshaker, concludes in Fiddlehead. The walking dead have spread like a cancer from city to city, in both the Union and the Confederacy, until they have become a larger threat than anyone could have imagined. Gideon Bardsley, inventor of the calculating machine known as the Fiddlehead, discovers vital information concerning the ongoing war. It must stop, or the whole continent will be destroyed. Unfortunately for Gideon Bardsley, certain war profiteers want to keep the war lumbering on, so they send assassins. Fortunately, Bardsley has some very powerful allies, such as Abraham Lincoln (who has here survived the attempt on his life at the Ford’s Theatre, thanks in part to Bardsley’s inventions).
            This story is more focused on grand political movements and less on the actions of one woman as most of the other Clockwork Century novels are. The action is split over many locations as the protagonists struggle to stop a horrific war crime, spread the word that the zombis are an international threat, and survive multiple assassination attempts. If a character can be said to take center stage, it is President Ulysses S. Grant. Cherie Priest’s portrayal is sympathetic and it is an absolute pleasure to see the man in action (once he is goaded into action, that is).
            I would award Fiddlehead four gears out of five. It was not my favorite Clockwork Century novel, but it was a satisfying conclusion all the same. It is worth reading and reading again.

Your Correspondent From The Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Lazarus Gate

The Lazarus Gate: A Penny Dreadful Review

            There is much to be said for the memoir-style narrative. It was a popular device in Victorian fiction. Such books at The Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, even the Sherlock Holmes stories all use it. Therefore, it is a natural choice for a Steampunk author to select as the narrative mode for their tale. The Lazarus Gate, by Mark Latham, is one such book.
            Captain John Hardwick was a prisoner of war in Burma. Traumatized, he returns home to London intending to have nothing more to do with duty, Queen, and country. Then, he is recruited by the secretive Order of Apollo Lycea. He must investigate a series of bombings where the culprits vanish into thin air. The explanation, once provided, involves psychic phenomena, alternate universes, a potential invasion, and certain family members thought long dead…
            I loved the brilliant way in which Mark Latham captures the feel of a nineteenth century memoir. Captain John Hardwick’s language will seem incredibly familiar to anyone who has read H. G. Wells, or even Lovecraft. Indeed, the horrors facing the Othersiders of the alternate universe are singularly Lovecraftian.
            The Lazarus Gate is not to be missed. I give it five gears out of five.

Your Correspondent From The Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath

The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath: A Penny Dreadful Review

            Clocks that contain souls and demons that kidnap boys to be their sons. A shapeshifting detective and a strange secret society. Singular and extraordinary events fill The Singular and Extraordinary Tale Of Mirror & Goliath, by Ishbelle Bee.
            This book is like reading a dream, or a storybook written by the demented Mr. Loveheart, who was not born wicked, but was kidnapped as a child by the demon lord of the underworld. Mr. Loveheart is quite mad now. I found young Mirror, a girl who was trapped in a clock and now lives with her shapeshifting guardian Goliath, to be a sweet, enchanting character. It was a delight to read her story, to piece together the symbols and events.
            If you are a person who requires a linear plot of their novels, this is not the book for you. If you don’t mind a bit of magic, mystery, and ambiguity, you ought to read this book.
            This odd duck of a book deserves four and a half gears out of five. It was a joy to read, and I couldn’t put it down. I suggest you pick it up.

Your Singular and Extraordinary Correspondent from the Bookstore,

Penny J. Merriweather