Lizzie vs. Lovecraft: Maplecroft, by Cherie Priest

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Visions
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Maplecroft is another amazing accomplishment for Cherie Priest. Maplecroft

I’ve read nearly everything she’s written, and have never been disappointed. On the contrary, her books – especially those in the Clockwork Century line (Boneshaker, Ganymede, The Inexplicables and others) – are some of my all-time favorites of any genre. Brilliantly drawn characters, period language (made up period though it may be!) and evocative stories with noble themes never fail to satisfy and impress.

I remember vividly a scene early in the second tale in the series, Dreadnought, where a newly trained nurse enters the chaotic main ward of a Civil War hospital – a war that’s lasted more than 20 years in this universe – and is so thunderstruck at the pain and horror before her that she whispers under her breath, “Where do I start…?” I remember feeling her fear and frustration and amazement viscerally thanks to Ms. Priest’s incredible abilities.

When I heard that she was tackling a new series of stories that had nothing to do with the Clockwork Century universe, I was disappointed and excited all at once. When I discovered what types of stories they’d be the disappointment faded and the excitement grabbed hold.

What if Lizzie Borden had in fact killed her parents with her trusty ax, but had done so because she’d been forced to? Because those same parents were changing… had changed… into some Lovecraftian nightmare from the deepest fathoms?

“Where do I sign up?” I thought, “and how?!”

Turns out that not only did I sign up – for a sweepstakes to be one of only fifty advance readers to receive a copy of the unedited version of the story – I was one of the lucky winners! (Thanks, Goodreads, ROC and Ms. Priest!)

I dove right in, and from the very beginning was hooked by the style, so very different from her other works but no less compelling for that. The language, while appearing somewhat dated (duh – turn of the century…) transfixed me, and struck me immediately as being from the same linguistic tree that Lovecraft had pulled from, if from very different branches.

The epistolary style was fine at first, with alternating letters, journal entries, and just plain interior thoughts from the various characters moving everything along nicely, but was frustrating as the story gained momentum. (It reminded me of my early readings of The Lord of the Rings, when I couldn’t wait to get back to Aragorn and the gang, and every time a Frodo and Sam chapter would intervene I’d cry, “No! Not yet!”)

I was completely immersed in the story, and in its delivery. It was so like all of the Lovecraft I’ve read in the past, whether it was Lizzie, her sister, or the transforming madman narrating. Totally impressive. I never got the sense that she was merely copying his style, though; otherwise each chapter may have ended with “… and the green-skinned monstrosity reared its bulbous head, and HE SAW THAT IT WAS HER! IT WAS HER!!!” The voice is hers, the story is hers, but it was like he was lurking just over her shoulder, guiding her thoughts and her hands with a nudge here, a tickle there. Like Lovecraft himself, it was uncanny at times how she spoke in his voice while successfully maintaining her own.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable ride, highly recommended, with only one niggling complaint: I didn’t care for the speed or the content of the ending itself. I realize it lends itself well to follow-ups, which I’ll greedily inhale as they appear, but when I turned the last page (something I’ve not done, by the way, in a long while since converting to eReading,) I was left with an unusual feeling. Normally, upon finishing her previous works I’d be sad that it was over, anxious for the next, and ultimately satisfied with that portion of the overall tale. As much as I enjoyed Maplecroft, only two of those states applied for me at its end.

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Comments
  1. Trysh says:

    Excellent and appreciated review – thank you!

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