Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
This tied in strangely to my other Halloween reads this year: it included both the regularly shifting POVs of The House and the heavy historical horror setting The Witching Hour did so well. (As a matter of fact, if I had to pick a runner up for the Anne Rice 'obsessed with historical time and place' award, Priest would be it!)
There aren't a lot of solid werewolf novels out there, that aren't PNR (where 'shifter' is an actual genre.) So when I'd heard that Priest had written one, I ran for the library. Starting on a riverboat on the Tennessee and moving to Texas and then onto the frontier in post-Civil War old timey western times, the setting of the novel is a familiar one for fans of Priest's works (though the Clockwork Century is, admittedly, an alternate steampunk timeline). And, as always, Priest accentuates the locality uses it to its full, in personality and practical use.
The book takes place in three acts, and if the book had one true problem for me, it was the pacing. The first part could have been taken out entirely. It provided horror, yes, and some delightful gore, but it flashes between five different narrators, and none of them are identified before their chapters start, so you're thrown into the deep end to figure things out. Before 100 pages pass, three of the five are dead (you're told this from the beginning, and I suppose one of the survivors is supposed to be something of a surprise.)
It becomes Aileen's book after that, and that's when I truly became invested. Priest is praised for her female characters for a reason, and Aileen is a fantastic example. They're not characters I could describe quickly, or with buzzwords, and that's what makes them interesting; when I talk about her strong female characters, it's not just because they kickass, or overcome their pain, or whatever. It's actually depth of character.
The third section takes up the switching POVs, but I was invested in the characters this time around, and Leonard and Melissa were absolutely heartbreaking. Again, the time jump, and even a bit of story leaping, between the second and third part was a bit jarring, but the story was a good one, and this time I went with it.
With the fantastic old timey illustrations, and the sort of bill of action that announces each new section of the book, it has the feel of a serial of the time, a penny dreadful. (And, funnily enough, the tone reminded me a bit of the TV show Penny Dreadful, the second season of which I just finished binge watching.) And it was an idea, but I'm not sure it's entirely successful.
Overall, a good, enjoying and solid read.