The Toll

[Starred Review] Priest (The Family Plot) spins a small, swampy urban legend into a riveting, swelteringly atmospheric story that questions just how far the residents of a Southern town will go to forget, or appease, a past they cannot bear to confront. Cameron Spratford has lived with his elderly cousins Claire and Daisy in Staywater, Ga., since his parents abandoned him there as a toddler. Although everyone in Staywater encourages Cam to leave, he is content to remain — until Titus Bell arrives. Titus and his wife, Melanie, are traveling through the Okefenokee Swamp when they arrive at a strange, one-lane bridge. Sometime later, Titus wakes up in the middle of the road, alone. He makes his way to Staywater and, while awaiting news of Melanie, begins to shake the secrets of the town loose. Cameron gradually discovers the truth about the bridge outside Staywater, the role Claire and Daisy played in bringing peace there once, and what they are willing to do to keep Cameron safe. Priest keeps the supernatural elements grounded by developing nuanced characters who feel as though they could walk off the page. Moody and mysterious, this gothic tale touches the heart even as it wraps chilly fingers around the spine.(July) ~Publishers Weekly

Every thirteen years, someone in Staywater, Georgia, disappears. Sometimes huge groups of people would be mysteriously swallowed up by the Okefenokee Swamp, and locals chalked it up to flash floods. Some even whispered about a serial killer. Cousins Daisy and Claire, though, knew there was a creature in the swamp that fed off the souls of the living, and in 1966, they did something about it. They lured the supernatural beast out of the swamp and killed it – but that wasn’t enough to keep its ghost from feeding. In the present day, a tourist disappears, and the missing woman’s husband begins digging for answers, slowly unfolding the mystery of Staywater as he talks to locals. Daisy and Claire are too old to fight, but they arm him with what they know and he sets off for the swamp to save his wife. Priest (The Family Plot, 2016) takes readers on a truly unsettling gothic journey through a rural town haunted by ghosts and secrets, leaving readers suspicious of every character along the way. ~Booklist

Cherie Priest is perhaps our premier living writer of Southern Gothic horror, and her forthcoming standalone, The Toll, is a delightfully chilling small town tale, with prose so tactile you’ll feel the humidity sending beads of sweat down your neck. When a woman disappears on State Road 177, the residents of nearby Staywater are immediately placed on high alert. This isn’t the first disappearance on that stretch of pavement—every thirteen years, like clockwork, a bridge appears on the road through the swamp, and something emerges from the water below to collect its toll…. If you’re looking for a summer read featuring swamp monsters, haunted bar stools, a creepy doll museum, a town populated with charmed weirdos, and two absolutely badass old ladies, well, welcome to Staywater.

The Agony House

[Starred Review] Following up on their successful collaboration in I am Princess X (2016), Priest and O’Connor neatly weave together the history of comic books and contemporary concerns about gentrification in this eerie ghost story set in a ramshackle house that’s as much a character as the people living in it. Denise, her mom, and stepdad have just moved into an nearly destroyed, once-beautiful house in New Orleans, and almost right away, Denise starts noticing odd things. First, they’re harmless, if creepy, but later, unexplained, dangerous accidents happen as they renovate the house. But the comic book manuscript Denise finds carefully hidden in the attic (pages of which appear throughout the novel) is the key to source of the poltergeists. Meanwhile, Denise’s neighbors are uneasy about outsiders capitalizing on cheap property in New Orleans, and Priest does a great job of skillfully including the important conversations Denise and her family have with their new community. At its heart, though, this is a ghost story, and Priest excels at building palpable atmosphere: Denise’s parents’ anxiety about their shoestring budget, the sweltering New Orleans summer heat, the disrepair of the house (“soggy plaster fell from the studs like wet cake”), and the increasingly terrifying haunting. Dynamic characters and a surprising mystery round out this sharp, satisfying, and engrossingly spooky story. ~Booklist

A white family’s attempts to renovate a storm-wracked Victorian New Orleans house are complicated by bitterly contending ghosts. The resident spirits aren’t particularly reticent either, readily manifesting not only to 17-year-old Denise and her newlywed mother and stepfather, but to visiting neighbors as well—as a whiff of perfume, creeping shadows, a falling ceiling, and other ominous portents. But rather than being a stereotypical screamer, Denise has much in common (characterwise, at least) with intrepid, gun-toting Lucida Might, girl crime fighter and star of a 1950s manuscript comic Denise finds in the attic. Priest (Brimstone, 2017, etc.) ably weaves contemporary issues and a feminist strand into this fantasy as, while briskly fending off ghostly visitations and searching out clues to the house’s violent past, Denise makes new friends and encounters pushback from some St. Roch neighbors rightfully leery of white gentrifiers. Highlighted by a wonderfully melodramatic climax, the author brings her plotlines to upbeat resolutions with a thrilling discovery, a revelation about the comic’s author, and a degree of general community acceptance of Denise and her family. Nearly every character’s race, white or black, is carefully but unobtrusively specified. O’Connor (The Altered History of Willow Sparks, 2018) inserts multiple pages from the comic and atmospheric stand-alone illustrations all printed in haint blue. Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting. ~Kirkus

When 17-year-old Denise’s parents move her to New Orleans, planning to fix up an old house and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, accidents start occurring and Denise quickly realizes that the house is haunted. The classic haunted house story gets an update with a story line involving a 1950’s era comic book featuring a female hero that is atypical for its time. Scenes from the comic book, which are sporadically interspersed into the narrative, add visual variety to the story and intensify the mood. Each small horror within the house builds to a large climax and a twist ending as Denise uses the comics to solve a mystery. Readers will empathize with Denise’s financial troubles as she and her family struggle to pay for food when all their money goes into the house. The issue of gentrification, particularly in a Hurricane Katrina–affected New Orleans, is woven in, though at times didactically. Text messages (including some dated teen textspeak), emails, and ghost whispers are printed in blue in order to stand out and match the comics’ color palette. VERDICT The format of this ghost story is inviting and while never truly horrifying, younger YA readers will be satisfied with the chills provided. ~School Library Journal

This is as classic a haunted house story as they come, but Priest judiciously selects from the standard list of tropes to fashion it into a tale that stands on its own merits. A mysterious death in the house decades ago? Check: Joe Vaughn, Golden Age comic-book creator, is not resting in peace. Ghost hunting friend? Check. Clues culled from old letters and articles in a university archive? Check. A wholesome, up-standing love interest? Check. But…Nobody-will-believe-me tension? No. Everybody hears these ghosts, and it doesn’t help. Stepfamily drama? No. They all pull together, and that doesn’t help either. Wise Black community elders spouting warning and insight? No. The neighbors know the place is haunted and mainly want gossip and a tour. O’Connor contributes sections of the fictional Vaughn’s unpublished pre-Code comic (discovered in the attic, of course) that parallel the contemporary horrors occurring in the house in the text. This is no visual gimmick, but an effective narrative device that helps reveal how the self-censorship of the comic industry brought two individuals into lethal conflict. Teens who read Pam Smy’s similarly formatted Thornhill (BCCB 07/17) with shivery pleasure will be equally pleased with this haunting. ~The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

This time [Priest] goes full creepy with a haunted house story set in New Orleans that also manages to throw in a hefty dose of the history of comic books and some thoughtful consideration of the issue of gentrification. Combined with Tara O’Connor’s illustrations, The Agony House blends ghostly visitations with classic mystery solving and serious social commentary to give readers a smart and surprisingly topical read. Kudos to Priest for crafting a supernatural mystery that blends classic crime-solving with a thoroughly modern sensibility. The inclusion of sections with the actual pages from the Lucinda Might comic book, courtesy Tara O’Connor’s outstanding illustrations, was also a brilliant decision. The Agony House is a fast-paced read that tackles significant social issues while never deviating from its horror roots. This is how you give perceptive readers a good time: you don’t write down to them, you dish out the thrills and chills in a narrative that also makes some insightful assessment of how we live along the way. We need more of this in MG and YA fantasy, much much more. ~Locus Magazine


[Starred Review] In this pitch-perfect penny dreadful, Priest (The Family Plot) evokes the strangeness and charm of early-19th-century Florida and the fortitude of two spectacular protagonists. Alice Dartle, making a daring bid for freedom from her family home in Norfolk, Va., dreams of a man surrounded by fire. She journeys to join a community of Spiritualists in Cassadaga, Fla. where she hopes to learn how to control her natural psychic abilities. Tomás Cordero is a war veteran who’s just returned home to Ybor City, Fla., where he’s plagued by uncanny fires that seem determined to destroy all he loves. The two are brought together by powers beyond their understanding, which they must face armed only with universal love and compassion. Priest wields a brilliant command of the delightful and the frightening in this enchanting tale. Though spooky and dangerous events abound, each less logical than the last, she holds tightly to the theme that these events are rooted in human will. The detailed extrapolation of Spiritualist beliefs into reality makes the story even more terrifying than if it had a supernatural villain driving the chaos. The conclusion is both uplifting and satisfying, a fitting reward for the protagonists, who have each sought only to give help and love to those in need. (Apr.) ~Publishers Weekly

Brimstone is a spellbinding historical fantasy that ignites empathy…Cherie Priest is a deft storyteller in any genre, and history really does come alive when she puts pen to paper. Brimstone, in particular, will appeal to those who enjoy a bit of strange history to go along with their magic. ~Barnes and Noble’s sci-fi and fantasy blog.

[4 Stars] Priest has a knack for writing likable, well-rounded characters and putting them through some unpleasant, creepy events. The bourbon-loving, easily flustered psychic Alice might be the author’s most purely endearing protagonist yet, and Tomas, the stricken but resolute tailor, is tremendously easy to root for as well. The depictions of the various fires and some other events are vivid and at times wince-inducing. While the immediate narrative here is wrapped up nicely, readers may wish for some return trips to this version of Cassadaga, FL. ~Romantic Times

Priest (Boneshaker, 2009) offers a textured period piece set in the spiritualist camp of Cassadaga, Florida, in 1920. Alice Dartle is a powerful but untrained medium who has left Virginia in hopes of education in Cassadaga. She dreams of a man who turns out to be Tomás Cordero, a Cuban-American veteran in a distant town, who has been experiencing unexplained fires—both in dreams and in real life—which he fervently hopes are messages from his dead wife. Unfortunately, more sinister forces are at work. An ancient and malevolent spirit may be using Tomás for its own ends, putting all Cassadaga at risk. Alice and Tomás must work with a strong supporting cast of characters to address the threat. Priest weaves intriguing historical detail throughout this slowly intensifying tale of darkness, fire, and the power of human connection. Recommended for fans of Joe Hill, otherworldly suspense, and stories with a strong sense of place and history. ~Booklist

Cherie Priest is perhaps best known for her Hugo- and Nebula-nominated Clockwork Century series—a bombastic steampunk explosion of alternate history America, air pirates, and zombie epidemics. It’s fun with a capital F. It’s also a far cry from her latest novel, Brimstone, which trades airships for clairvoyants and chihuahuas, and the threat of toxic gas for more personal demons. It’s not a departure for Priest, as it piggybacks off of Priest’s unrelated 2016 novel, The Family Plot—a similarly haunting portrait of Americana—but it is another feather in her cap, as she continues to prove herself one of the most versatile writers of American speculative fiction. … With its unique mix of Americana, post-war themes, likeable characters, and swift plot, Brimstone is easy to recommend.

Full of charm and care, with light-hearted fun woven gently into compassionate renderings of sorrow and loss, Brimstone is equal parts affectionate romp and affecting story — not least because, given the state of the world, it’s good to read books in which hate is scarier than ghosts, love is stronger than hate, and witches simply refuse to burn. ~NPR Book Reviews

Brimstone is a wonderful and scary story from Cherie Priest which combines themes of history, love, and destruction. Alice is a young woman who is a clairvoyant. … I love how this book captures time and place, and how it realistically embraces a protagonist and supporting characters of color. It is not a romance, but it deals with themes of different kinds of love and hints at a romance in Alice’s future. The creepy parts are very creepy and everything ties together seamlessly. As the owner of a small, timid dog, I particularly loved the depiction of the dog that Tomás reluctantly finds himself in charge of. Tomás has been grieving his wife so intensely that he can’t open his heart even to his closest friends, but over time he says, “I do not know how I lived so long without a dog.” The dog gives Tomás something to protect, and Tomás gives Alice someone to protect, and both find that the act of caring for another being forces them to grow. It’s an evocative, sweet, empowering story despite the horror the protagonists face. ~Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

The Family Plot

[Starred (and Boxed!) Review] When Dahlia Dutton’s father sends her and a small crew to salvage a house near Lookout Mountain, Tenn., she finds that what you don’t know can hurt you in Priest’s spectacular modern haunted-house story. Dahlia is no stranger to ghosts, whether she’s being emotionally haunted by a failed marriage or by the metaphorical spirits that linger in old buildings. The concept of home salvage disturbing ghosts is brilliant, and while common elements of haunted house stories are certainly present (a mysterious owner with family secrets, locked rooms, unnatural storms, etc.), Priest (Boneshaker) handles them with tremendous skill, putting the pieces together to keep the reader guessing and more than a little scared. The characters are given a compelling reason to stay (the family business will fail if this job falls through) and their interpersonal dynamics humanize them, making them more than just cannon fodder as the hauntings increase in severity. Priest has written an excellent modern house story from start to finish. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary. (Sept.) ~Publishers Weekly

[Starred Review] In Priest’s gothic haunted-house story, workers at failing architectural salvage company are given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reverse their fortunes, if they can survive the ghosts plaguing the property. DahliaDutton, the daughter of Music City Salvage’s owner, loves old houses. She’s still sore over losing her own beautifully restored home in her divorce. Once Dahlia arrives at the grand, well-preserved Withrow estate in the Tennessee mountains, she wishes she could save it; instead, she and her crew—her estranged cousin Bobby; his lovable son, Gabe; and salvage rookie Brad—have mere days to rescue the valuables before demolition. To save money, they sleep on-site, when the mansion’s romantic charm turns menacing. Strange occurrences and spectral sightings increase as the crew dismantles the house, exposing the Withrow family’s secrets. Priest spices up a standard haunting with an irresistible premise focused on the “hidden treasure” aspect of salvage work. Careful character building accentuates the novel’s slow build, so by the time the salvagers are in real danger, they feel like real people, too. Despite lulls in pacing, the final scenes are terrifying. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary ghost stories. ~Booklist

[4 Stars] Priest continues to cement her reputation as a master of modern gothic with a haunted house tale that’s a slow burn with an utterly addictive finale….In The Family Plot, Dahlia Dutton and her salvage crew are given a last ditch job to wreck and salvage an especially tantalizing property. Ignorant of the house and Withrow family’s history, the crew soon find themselves haunted by a multitude of spirits. At first, the spirits are content to scare and pester, but as Dahlia uncovers more of the secrets the house has held for nearly a century, something dark and violent emerges — something that has squared all its rage on Dahlia Dutton alone. ~Romantic Times

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest should carry a warning label: Do not read this book in bed at night. To avoid stress and shivers up the spine only read it outside in bright sunlight while wearing a large crucifix and with a bottle of holy water close at hand. An exorcist might not be a bad idea either. … [It’s] more than just spooky; it is The Haunting of Hill House and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho entwined in a dark tale of murder, spiritualism, and a ghost who doesn’t want to leave the Withrow Mansion. … Priest’s use of such a prosaic, unromantic blue-collar background as a salvage company is pure genius. The contrast between a salvage crew in jeans and work boots and a malevolent ghost in a yellow dress makes the plot more believable. ~New York Journal of Books

A ghost story lives or dies on its creep factor, and Priest absolutely nails it, spinning a Southern Gothic tale of family secrets and avenging spirits with just enough humor sprinkled throughout to break the tension before racheting the suspense back up to heart-pounding levels. And what’s a good ghost story without a creepy finale that leaves enough questions unanswered to leave you hanging in the best way? Read it, and get used to morning showers and sleeping with the lights on. ~The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Family Plot, like all well crafted ghost stories, slowly creeps up on you. Somewhere in your peripheral vision, it unsettlingly teases, dropping chilling clues. Then, in the dark, it pounces…. ~Pop Culture Beast

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest is a wonderfully atmospheric and chillingly gothic ghost story populated with well rounded characters, a particularly malevolent ghost and a house with a character all of its own. I loved this. It seriously gave me the goosebumps and, frankly (although I could be something of a wuss) scared me into not reading alone late at night … If you love a story that steadily ratchets up the tension until you’re sitting with the hairs standing up on the back of your neck then this could definitely be for you. ~The Speculative Herald

The Family Plot delivers a double helping of fun: A prospectus of auction items worthy of Southern Living is served up alongside a tale of gothic suspense woven from the familiar fabric of lost war ballads, flavored with the bitter twang of ingrown family evils and hypocritical Confederate piety. For Priest, as for her vulnerable protagonist, the more traditional the object, the more valuable it’s got to be. ~Bookpage

In The Family Plot Cherie Priest dismantles two forms of horror, Southern Gothic and the haunted house story, reducing them to their constituent parts as the heroine and her salvage crew take apart an old mansion (whose dark spell persists while its parts – furnishings, forgotten heirlooms, choice architectural details – get assessed and packed away).

Dahlia Dutton, the recently divorced thirtysomething woman whose father created Nashville-based company Music City Salvage and chose her to lead this project, calls it ‘‘disassembling.’’ In reviewer’s lingo, the novel itself might be called a work of ‘‘deconstruction,’’ but Priest brings it off without avant-garde shenanigans, through a gripping, unbroken narrative and one main viewpoint character….

…They’ve got to see this project through, since the company’s financial survival depends on what they make from it. To save their own lives and sanity, they need to learn as much as possible about the family tragedy that spawned the ghosts. Since these are modern times (even in countryside miles from Chattanooga), smartphones and web links give the team a chance. But the danger grows more acute, over the course of what proves to be a remarkable new take on old darkness – both living and dead. ~Locus


Most of the reviews of Cherie Priest’s new-ish Maplecroft and its just-released quasi-sequel Chapelwood focus on what her world borrows from H.P. Lovecraft. Those reviews are totally right. There are a lot of tentacles and creeping dread in these two titles. They are loving tributes to Cthulhu and all that dread lord has wrought.

But that’s only the surface, which becomes especially clear in the newer of the two books. Chapelwood is set several decades after the events of Maplecroft (and said events involved a certain Lizzie Borden and her axe, among other things) but the two stories don’t have to be read together to be understood – despite sharing some characters and their created world. Now we’re in early 1920s Birmingham AL, where a recent spate of axe murders has caught the attention of Inspector Simon Wolf, who is dragged from the chilly Northeast to the South because an old friend is one of the victims. Ms Borden – now known as Lizbeth Andrew – gets involved, too, and this mismatched elder-god-fighting team try to get to the bottom of things and, incidentally, save all of humanity from a horrifying fate…

…Add to that smart subtext a young, female protagonist who is more than capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much, plus an ending that doesn’t fit the expected beats of a climactic ending but is incredibly satisfying – and Chapelwood becomes much more than a Lovecraft knock-off. It is wholly and wonderfully itself. ~Locus Magazine December 2015

Chapelwood is devious, twisted and beautifully written. Cherie Priest is one of our very best authors of the fantastic. Brava! ~Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Ghostwalkers and Predator One

Priest doesn’t shy away from violence, but it’s not what drives her brand of horror. The woman can do atmosphere. She can do menacing. She can do creepy. She’s one of the best writers in the horror/dark fantasy genre working today. ~Adventures Fantastic

[4-1/2 stars] In Chapelwood, Priest manages the very difficult task of jumping decades ahead — with a cast winnowed by the events of the previous novel in the series and the passing of years — and writing an equally gripping Lovecraftian thriller where our heroes are nearing or at retirement age and are pitched fully out of their normal settings. In some ways, this book is even scarier than the first, with their monstrous opponents coming to almost total power through good old-fashioned prejudice and hate; it feels very much like Borden, Wolf and their few allies are the last decent people in town. It’s a shame this feels like it must be the end of the series because readers will want more adventures with Borden and Wolf. ~Romantic Times

Setting this slow but effective second Lizzie Borden/H.P. Lovecraft mashup in the 1920s, three decades after the events of Maplecroft, Priest emphasizes Lovecraft’s storytelling elements of mathematics, spiritualism, the dubious cultural values of the early-20th-century American Deep South, and mind-shatteringly monstrous beings. The convergence of the actions of members of the congregation of the titular Chapelwood Estate, a church with a “patriotic Southern bent,” and a series of axe-murders (initially drawing little attention, due to the ethnicity and occupations of the victims), compel Inspector Simon Wolf and Lizbeth Andrew (formerly Borden) to visit Birmingham, Ala. Ruth Stephenson, a 20-year-old medium, is an unwitting linchpin in the plans of those who strive to control cosmic balances, one of a select few residents of Birmingham to make a stand against the corruption of their community. Multiple narrators slow the already sedate pace, but that contributes to the story’s atmosphere of inexorable menace, as does the grim history Priest draws on. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Sept.) ~Publishers Weekly

I Am Princess X

[Starred Review] Back in fifth grade, best friends May and Libby created Princess X, a katana-wielding heroine who wears Converse sneakers with her ball gown. Ever since Libby and her mother died in a freak accident, May’s life has been as gray as her Seattle home—until the 16-year-old spots a Princess X sticker in a store window, leading her to a Princess X webcomic that suggests that Libby might still be alive. With the help of Trick, a hacker-for-hire, May follows the trail that Princess X’s near-mythic narrative leaves for her, which incorporates Seattle landmarks like the Fremont Troll and characters like the dangerous Needle Man and the mysterious, helpful Jackdaw. Illustrations from the Princess X comic—skillfully rendered by Ciesemier and printed in purple—add greatly to this techno-thriller’s tension. Fresh and contemporary, this hybrid novel/comic packs a lot of plot in a relatively short book, but its strongest suit may be Priest’s keen understanding of the chasmic gap between the way teens and adults engage in the landscape of the Internet. Ages 12–up. ~Publishers Weekly

[Starred Review] …An excellent book with loads of cross-genre and cross-format appeal. Highly recommended. ~School Library Review

[Starred Review] Priest’s YA debut is an engrossing cyberthriller packed with a puzzling mystery, crackerjack detective work, and an eerie, atmospheric sense of place. The unembellished style is a perfect match for the noir-lite tone, and May and Trick, whose banter crackles with energy, rival any team of gumshoes out there. Teens who roll their eyes at adults out of touch with Internet culture will eat this up. ~Booklist

[Starred Review] In a clever innovation, Priest seamlessly integrates Kali Ciesemier’s comics within the prose narrative. Each new episode of Princess X reveals further clues and a terrifying reality for their creator. Ciesemier’s portrait of Princess X achieves a sense of both anxiety and bravery. Priest demonstrates that creative teamwork of the kind shared by Libby and May leads to an intimate knowledge of one’s collaborator. ~Shelf Awareness


[4 stars] Priest continues to be an effective crafter of dread and tension…The characters here are vivid and interesting enough that hopefully this particular adventure isn’t the last we hear from them, or of the survivors, at least. ~Romantic Times Book Reviews

While other novels in Priest’s Clockwork Century series have dabbled in supernatural elements, Jacaranda is the first to go full bore and embrace the supernatural. It leaves behind much of the steampunk and pseudoscientific trappings that characterize the series, offering a cursed hotel and perils less tangible than sap-poisoned rotters and Civil War profiteers… A welcome new wrinkle in an established series, Jacaranda shows there’s plenty of life left in the Clockwork Century universe. ~San Francisco Book Review

This gripping postscript to Priest’s Clockwork Century series (which officially concluded with Fiddlehead) takes readers to the titular Galveston, Tex., haunted hotel, in an alternate 1895 seasoned with ghosts and gears. Father Rios is a former gunslinger cursed with second sight and a dark past. When Sister Eileen contacts him about the dozens who have died in the hotel, he visits ahead of an impending hurricane and soon witnesses the horrors firsthand. The hotel’s guests all have dark secrets, and the violence with which the hotel disposes of them is all the more horrifying as it takes place off-page, leaving only the aftermath for the characters to discover. Priest is hardly covering new ground, but the American steampunk setting gives the classic evil haunted house a nice new coat of paint. Rios is a great protagonist, full of conflicts and doubts, and he drives the tale well. While the story stands on its own, it also provides some melancholy closure for fans of Priest’s earlier books. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Agency. (Feb.) ~Publishers Weekly

In Jacaranda, set in Cherie Priest’s alternate version of late 1800s America – the one she set up in Boneshaker and has dipped back into successfully several times since – there is a hotel on Galveston Island that seems to be murdering its guests. Sister Eileen Callahan, who is not quite as human as she appears, asks for help from a padre and a Ranger, each of whom turns up on the Jacaranda’s doorstep a few days before a massive hurricane. What then unspools is a locked room horror mystery that has a little bit of The Shining and a little more Tarantino mixed in. Of course, it also has a lot of Priest herself, who is channeling her earlier Four and Twenty Blackbirds voice for a deliciously creepy turn in Jacaranda. Those who love a short spook or are Clockwork Century completists (or both, which might be a pretty big intersection on the Venn diagram) will love what Priest has done here. ~Locus Magazine

Unsettling and creepy, Jacaranda, Cherie Priest’s latest novella in the Clockwork Century series, is a classic take upon a horror staple. This work is an outlier in her established universe of alt-hist steampunk zombie Civil War adventures, but fulfills its promise as a quick, chilling read.


Maplecroft triumphs on virtually every level, and the seamless positioning of fact with macabre fiction is spot on. Regardless of your propensity towards Lovecraftian horror stories, if you enjoy superior writing and well fleshed out characters, you are going to enjoy this novel.

Maplecroft is at its most basic level really fun. I love the imagery of its evil creatures, the idea of Lizzie Borden going around with an axe destroying soul-sucking things because she wants to protect her town and her sister. And I loved her romantic relationship with Nance …. Maplecroft is also really good at depicting the slow, all-encompassing horror of the events surrounding and immediately following the Borden crimes in a cool mixture of horror, mystery and female characters’ badassery. ~Kirkus Reviews

Without giving too much away, I will say this—Maplecroft is a towering literary achievement. It’s a macabre masterwork. In terms of narrative intensity and abominable atmospherics, it’s comparable to anything Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft ever released. ~Paul Goat Allen, of B& et. al.

[Rated 4-1/2 stars] 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. ~Romantic Times

Part alternate history, part horror, Maplecroft is sure to be one of the season’s creepiest reads. ~Kirkus, where it was named a Top Pick for Speculative Fiction.

Are you ready for a world where Cthulhu meets Lizzie Borden? Yes, as in “gave her mother forty whacks” Lizzie Borden. If you can wrap your head around that concept, then you’re ready for the spook-fest that is Maplecroft by Cherie Priest. It’s a tale of the supernatural, the weird, and the dark things that come from the depths of the sea. For someone like me who was already convinced that going into the ocean equals death, this book was extra scary but also reassuring. Weird, right? But I feel better than ever about my decision to not put a toe in the ocean. ~Amy Ratcliffe, for The

Maplecroft will be the best damn Cthulhu novel you’ve read in ages […] A warning, though. Once I started reading Maplecroft, I was basically glued to my chair until I was finished. So be prepared to lose an afternoon to this book – and to gnash your teeth waiting for the sequel to arrive (yes – it’s the first in the “Borden Dispatches” series). Whether you’re a weird fiction fan, or love true crime history, this book is a major treat. ~Annalee Newitz, at

[Starred Review] Lizbeth “Lizzie” Andrew Borden wields her axe against Lovecraftian entities in this terrifying and powerful series launch by fan favorite Priest (the Clockwork Century series). Two years after Lizzie infamously slew her mother and stepfather, she and her consumptive, scholarly older sister, Emma, remain in their hometown of Fall River, Mass., in an isolated and modified home called Maplecroft. Lizzie spends countless hours in her basement laboratory, trying to understand what transformed the Bordens into horrifying creatures, while protecting and caring for Emma and conducting a love affair with actress Nance O’Neil. Then Emma, who poses as “Dr. E.A. Jackson” to contribute to the men-only world of science, sends a biological sample to colleague Phillip Zollicoffer at Miskatonic University, with terrible consequences. Readers will be intrigued by the weird monsters and 19th-century science, but the story is really carried by the characters’ emotional dynamics, especially those between the Borden sisters. (Sept.) ~Publishers Weekly

What if Lizzie Borden actually did kill her father and stepmother with an axe, but she had a really good reason? Lizzie and her sister, Emma, still live in Fall River, MA, ostracized despite Lizzie’s acquittal years earlier. The townspeople don’t know that Lizzie might be their only defense against ocean creatures who can possess their souls and change their bodies. This clever premise combines genuine horror and a legendary historical character for an entertaining read. As in the best horror, the exact nature of the threat is left a little vague, allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the details. ~Library Journal

Priest excels at exploring some of our deepest, darkest fears by weaving together a realistic setting and historic events with a frightening, visceral supernatural element. […] The marvelous Maplecroft receives this reviewer’s highest recommendation.

A gothic tour de force by a writer at the peak of her powers. ~Fantasy Literature

For lovers of the gothic and macabre, Maplecroft is an unflinchingly grotesque glare into the maws of madness. Blood and viscera spatter readers in a miasmic mix of retched and revolting. This should surprise no one coming from Priest, who is fresh off a series centered on toxic steampunk zombies. Maplecroft is loftier, aspiring to the mountains of madness from whose peaks unfathomable insanity rains down. Succeeding to the summit is a superb work which wields both mastery over the classic forms of Lovecraft and Stoker, and the keenly honed blade of modern sensibilities. ~Chuck Francisco at

Maplecroft is dark and lyrical, haunting and brined in blood. It is as sharp as Lizzie Borden’s axe — and Borden herself is a horror heroine bar none. Cherie Priest is our new queen of darkness, folks. Time to kneel before her, lest she take our heads. ~Chuck Wendig, author of Blackbirds and The Blue Blazes.

Cherie Priest has long been a favorite author of mine, but with Maplecroft she has outdone herself. Grim, impeccably written, and deliciously disturbing, it’s nothing less than a Gothic masterpiece, and represents Priest at the height of her power. Easily my favorite novel of the year so far. ~ Kealan Patrick Burke, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Turtle Boy, and Kin.

Cherie Priest is supremely gifted and Maplecroft is a remarkable novel, simultaneously beautiful and grotesque. It is at once a dark historical fantasy with roots buried deep in real-life horror and a supernatural thriller mixing Victorian drama and Lovecraftian myth. You won’t be able to put it down! ~ Christopher Golden, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind

With Maplecroft, Cherie Priest delivers her most terrifying vision yet — a genuinely scary, deliciously claustrophobic, and dreadfully captivating historical thriller with both heart and cosmic horror. A mesmerizing, absolute must-read! ~ Brian Keene, Best-selling author of The Rising and Ghoul


For those of you who have read the work of Cherie Priest, you already know she can write. For those who haven’t, you’re missing out. This Hugo nominated and Locus Award winning author has a unique ability to take almost any setting and create a magical literary experience through believable characters and fantastic plot ideas. It doesn’t matter if her flavor of genre is noir, gothic, horror, steampunk, alternate history or science fiction, her undying approach in character development remains to be her most prolific super power in making her stories work. ~Amazing Stories

This is the definitive steampunk saga, the yardstick against which all other shall now be measured. More than that, this is a damned good read from a series full of damned good reads.

[starred review] This is a compelling finale to a fantastic series. The good guys are complex and sympathetic; the villains are suitably clever and malign. The action rattles along at breakneck speed, and the reader can’t resist coming along for the wild ride, which includes a climactic battle featuring a wheelchair-bound Abe Lincoln and a temporarily sober Ulysses S. Grant. Highly recommended for all readers of fantasy and steampunk. ~Library Journal

Priest’s final Clockwork Century novel (after The Inexplicables) wraps things up nicely, once again turning a mash-up of too-worn genre tropes (steampunk, alternate Civil War, zombies) into a work of entertainment laced with social criticism. In 1879, as the Civil War continues to rage, scientist and ex-slave Gideon Bardsley’s invention, a massive computer called the Fiddlehead, has predicted that the zombie outbreak from the Northwest will overwhelm both sides if they don’t end the war. Working with ex-president Lincoln (long disabled from an assassination attempt), he enlists the Pinkertons, including their agent Belle Boyd, in an attempt to find allies in the South. Meanwhile, amoral businesswoman Katharine Haymes attempts to prolong the war for her own reasons. Priest again throws in a huge cast of characters, and the historical figures (Boyd, Lincoln, Grant) are as interesting as the fictional ones. New readers would benefit from starting at the beginning of the series, but returning fans will be satisfied by the elegant conclusion and will regret that a great series has ended. ~Publishers Weekly

[A] deft, compelling blend of steampunk and zombies and alternative history…In the Clockwork Century books, Priest has displayed a remarkable imagination, inventing a new world that still retains familiar touchstones, combining the bizarre with the familiar. ~Chattanooga Times-Free Press

The Inexplicables

While the sequels Dreadnought and Ganymede expanded the fictional territory across much of North America, Priest circles back to the Pacific Northwest in The Inexplicables, subtly pivoting her story in a new direction. …Just as Rector and his friends roam up to the edges of their territory, she’s probing the world that she’s created, teasing out new aspects of the familiar landmarks, then laying out early signs of the next direction–because it’s very clear that there’s at least one more installment of the Clockwork Century yet to come. Newcomers can pick up The Inexplicables without any substantial difficulty, but there’s an extra layer of enjoyment if you know the backstory–and its three predecessors are just such fun, anyhow. ~Shelf Awareness

The latest installment of Priest’s steampunk series, Clockwork Century, returns to the alternate Civil War–era American landscape she introduced in Boneshaker (2009). Her eccentric protagonist this time is Rector Sherman, who, at 18, has just left the only home he’s ever known, an orphanage just outside a toxic, gas-infested, late-1800s Seattle. Hoping to eke out another few years of existence by selling and using sap, the area’s gas-derived drug of choice, Rector scales Seattle’s imposing walls and seeks out the ruined city’s criminal underworld. Aside from making a living, Rector is also hunting the remains of his old friend, Zeke Wilkes, hoping Zeke’s troublesome ghost will finally let him be. Yet not only is Zeke very much alive but the reunited pair must contend with a cross section of Seattle’s worst elements, including the zombie-like “inexplicables” and a band of sinister gold prospectors. Priest’s narrative has all the compelling ingredients that keep the steampunk subgenre going, including riveting characters; a vividly realized, atmospheric setting; and a well-told story of adventure. ~Booklist

Rector’s story is an old-fashioned boys’ adventure, and Priest’s alternate 1880 is as intriguing and enjoyable as ever. ~Publishers Weekly


[Starred Review] The smashing third volume in Priest’s Clockwork Century steampunk alternate-history Civil War series (after 2010’s Dreadnought) stars Josephine Early, New Orleans brothel owner and Union spy, who must deliver Ganymede, a prototype submarine, to the North. There are only a few problems: no one has ever successfully piloted the craft, and the Texian and Confederate armies are actively searching for it. Josephine’s former lover, Andan Cly, agrees to help while completing his primary mission of retrieving supplies for blighted Seattle, where noxious gas forces residents to live underground and zombies remain a constant peril. Priest is at the top of her game, equally deft with pirate battles and mature romance: Cly is tentatively connecting with earlier protagonist Briar Wilkes, sheriff of Seattle, making him elegantly cautious around Josephine as they both try to focus on their mission. Clockwork Century fans will dub this installment the best yet. (Oct.) ~Publishers Weekly

There are a lot of lazy writers out there who think steampunk is a quick way to tell a tale, but Cherie Priest isn’t one them. This is alternative history storytelling at its finest and she is a blend of Verne, Doyle, and dare I say it — Louisa May Alcott. The action is here, the mysteries, but also the gender balance among strong characters (both leading and supporting) is very nearly unprecedented. ~BookSlut

And indeed, as you can see, there’s a good reason that a growing number of people are starting to call this perhaps the greatest steampunk series in the history of the genre; and that’s because with each volume, Priest squeezes in several novels’ worth of flabbergasting ideas, making each story expansive as hell while still keeping a tight control over the three-act structure. ~The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

I was intrigued from the first few pages of Ganymede and it held my interest throughout. For some reason I’ve avoided the whole Steampunk movement in literature so far, but after getting a taste of Priest’s world, I’m going to have to start reading her Clockwork Century series to see what I’ve been missing… Ganymede is on bookstore shelves now and I’d encourage you to give it a read. Whether you’ve been on the fence about the whole Steampunk movement or have known about it a while, Priest’s writing style makes it easy to slip into the clockwork world Early and Cly inhabit. ~ The Seattle Post-Intelligencer

[Ganymede] is a more refined read – with a storyline that was impressively intricate and brilliantly polished. I suppose the expression I’m looking for is, ironically, “like clockwork” – the narrative was flawlessly paced, with a fluidity and precision that seemed effortless. The characters – even the peripheral ones – were well developed and emotionally compelling. Although it wasn’t integral to the primary storyline, Priest made it a point to “flesh out” marginal characters like Ruthie Doniker, Houjin, and Kirby Troost. Some authors may have “revealed” Ganymede much earlier in the novel but Priest drew out the mystery until well into the latter chapters – it may seem like a small thing but because of this decision the urge to continue reading was undeniable. Priest is very much an artist at the top of her craft – and this novel is a subtle masterpiece. ~Barnes & Noble Book Club

Priest is amazing at detail, brilliant at transforming an imagined, impossible history in such a way that flying airships and a decades-long Yankee Invasion seems not only plausible but simply neglected in our history books. With the authentic language and lush settings Priest readers have come to expect, Ganymede does not disappoint and is effortlessly at home in the Clockwork Century series. ~

An engrossing and exciting adventure from its first sentence to its last … Priest once again delivers a rousing adventure that demonstrates both her love of history and her definitive knack for playing with and bending it to fit the purpose of her captivating universe.

This sparkling fantasy has language that turns on a dime to pull readers in and keep them hooked; it’s hard to stop, once the plot gets rolling and you need to know what happens next. Despite the rapid pacing, there’s plenty of time for interesting side adventures and characters, including some real historical figures who flow well within the context of the story. … If you’re a fan of lush world-building that promises a dazzling array of possibilities, terrific characters, and a whopping good time, you’ll probably like Ganymede and the rest of the Clockwork Century, which is a stellar set of interconnected works with the promise of many more on the horizon. If you’re not a fan of those things, I believe the phone company hands out entertaining reading for free on an annual basis. ~Global Comment


Pure, unadulterated fun.

Raylene Pendia’s second adventure presents the vampire and occult thief with an entire shopping bag of problems. She’s on the lam from the government, seeking a fantastically powerful magical talisman, as is a super-powered witch, who wants the world-ruling power it will give her and, incidentally, is trying to kill Raylene’s best (indeed, nearly only) friend. That leaves Raylene with nobody to guard her back except a drag queen who, however, picked up some useful skills when he was in the SEALs. The premise is not all that original, but it achieves credibility that it might otherwise lack, thanks to Priest’s range of highly developed skills, notably including pacing that moves along at what can be described only as a magical tempo. Considerable enjoyment guaranteed. ~Booklist

When an urban fantasy features a “vampire superthief” and an “ex-navy SEAL and fabulous drag queen” among its lead characters, it can either be a delightful guilty pleasure or a disaster. In Priest’s second Raylene Pendle book (after Bloodshot), the author brings an enjoyable noirish humor to this booming genre. Our undead protagonist boldly breaks down the fourth wall to bring new readers up-to-date (although being reminded that she’s just a character in a book may take some readers out of the narrative). In her new outing, Raylene has been hired to retrieve a magical artificat also desired by a powerful witch who will stop at nothing to get it. At the same time, someone is trying to kill Ian, Raylene’s blind vampire friend. VERDICT Raylene and her gang of misfits will draw in urban fantasy fans of all stripes as well as fans of Priest’s other fantasies. Some language, used to show character traits, is a bit strong and might turn off gentler readers. However, the humor and adventure more than compensate for this minor negative. ~Library Journal

“A darkly funny crime caper with an unforgettable heroine.” ~ Kelley Armstrong

Vampire thief Raylene Pendle is back for more mysteries and mayhem in the entertaining sequel to February’s Bloodshot. When Raylene’s agent hires her to steal some magical bones, the vampire has no idea how much trouble she’s in for. After dodging sorcerous lightning sent by a powerful witch who also wants the bones and has no qualms about unleashing the forces of nature against her enemies, Raylene and Adrian, a Navy SEAL turned drag queen, get involved in trying to solve a suspicious death and must navigate some tricky political situations involving vampire Houses. Raylene’s sharp humor and sly observations about life as a thief and a vampire are the highlight of this engaging book. ~Publishers Weekly


[Starred Review] A 100-year-old vampire thief runs afoul of secret biological experimenters—first of an urban fantasy series from the versatile author of Boneshaker (2009). … A refreshing and addictive lure for readers uninterested in fangs, bats, capes and hissing. ~Kirkus

But this book only needs one thing to be fantastic, and that’s Raylene’s voice. There’s an entertainingly aggressive wackiness about her. The thought of government satellites gives her the shivers, so she only drives the blandest government-style cars. She’s witty and sharp and excellently lecherous. ~i09

There’s nothing here you haven’t heard before, other than the work of a superb writer at the top of her game. Yes, Virginia, there are vampire detectives, but at least Raylene comes to us in smoking hot prose that is hilariously funny, surprisingly smart and thoughtfully provocative. I’ve been with Priest from the get-go, and she’s on my auto-buy list; she should be on yours as well. The incredible writing you’ll find in this book proves it. If there are no new stories, then there are at least talented writers who can magic you into thinking otherwise. ~The Agony Column (

It’s nothing short of triumphant – a fast and fun read with an endearing yet unfathomably dark heroine, a fantastic supporting cast, and just enough hard-boiled mystery elements (Raylene’s father was a Pinkerton agent and she actually met Dashiell Hammett!) to make it highly palatable for paranormal fantasy fans who gravitate towards series like Kat Richardson’s Harper Blaine, Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt, and Seanan McGuire’s October Daye. Bottom line: Bloodshot is 360 pages of vampire-fueled, action-packed literary escapist gold, easily the best thing on the shelves for anyone who calls themselves a paranormal or urban fantasy fan. ~Explorations (Barnes & Noble SciFi and Fantasy blog)

Locus Award winner (Boneshaker, 2009) Priest makes her first foray into urban fantasy with a new series starring undead flapper and high-class thief Raylene Pendle. Being a vampire just means quick healing and useful supernatural abilities as far as Raylene is concerned. She manages to stay out of vampire politics, living alone and working mostly for humans, until a blind vampire shows up and asks for her help in locating the records of the government experiments that left him permanently handicapped. Within moments of accepting the job, Ray is being tailed by government agents, and someone seems to be casing her warehouse, where she stashes goods she can’t move and lets two homeless kids crash. Priest writes a fast-paced mix of caper novel and thriller that features realistically flawed characters (vampire and human). Plenty of action and a fairly high body count (mostly bad guys) make this a good suggestion for fans of Christopher Farnsworth’s Blood Oath (2010) and other crime readers who don’t mind a few vampires. ~Booklist

Steampunk and gothic author Priest (Boneshaker) dives into urban fantasy with this entertaining conspiracy thriller. ~ Publishers Weekly


It’s easy to poke fun at the Victorian affectations of steampunk, but Dreadnought has the propulsive power of a straight-ahead adventure story, and Priest handles the alternate history without needless frippery. Courageous, competent Mercy makes a compelling heroine, and the novel has much to say about the futility of war in any era. Dreadnought is tough but entertaining, another solid entry in a well-constructed series. ~The San Francisco Chronicle (at SF Gate)

…A propulsive, breathless read, an action movie that tears across the country, stopping just long enough to take snapshots of the race and gender politics of the time, to put a human face on history. ~The Stranger, Seattle

Dreadnought offers plenty of fun: fast-paced battle scenes, thundering locomotives and the gem of the book, its heroine. Nurse Mercy is a swearing, sweating, pistol-packing ex-farm girl who swabs away her patients’ blood with barely a flinch. She forms real attachments to the wounded in her care but is flatly practical about any given man’s chances for survival. Vivid, believable and endearingly stubborn, she’s an enjoyable companion for those taking the time to read a book which challenges the notion that steampunk must assume Victorian attitudes with its goggles and corsets. ~Seattle Times

Surprising to no one who read Boneshaker and Clementine, Priest’s newest was, once again, pure genius. … I’m not exaggerating the potential of Priest’s Clockwork Century – this saga could very well be the steampunk equivalent of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The depth and scope of world building is simply spectacular – and while stellar realm building doesn’t necessarily make for a good story, the world of Priest’s Clockwork Century is a lush foundation upon which she can weave a virtually limitless number of stories. Hardcore steampunk fans are already well aware of Cherie Priest and her Clockwork Century novels. Hopefully this blog will motivate adventurous fantasy, science fiction and even mainstream fiction fans looking to immerse themselves in something different to check out these ground-breaking – and bone-shaking – novels. ~Paul Goat Allen, Barnes &

Deliver[s] rousing Weird Western steampunk entertainment in a superior sequel. ~ Fantasy Magazine

[Starred Review] An intimate, well-crafted portrait of a nurse on a mission adds depth to this exceptional Civil War steampunk thriller, the self-contained sequel to 2009’s Locus Award-winning Boneshaker. Mercy Lynch, recently widowed and taxed to exhaustion by caring for Confederate wounded in Richmond, must cross the war-torn nation to reach her estranged father, who lies dying in the Washington territories. After her dirigible is shot out of the air, Mercy joins Horatio Korman, a Texas Ranger with an agenda, on the Union’s famous steam engine, the Dreadnought. On their trail are desperate Confederate soldiers and a zombified Mexican legion. The battles and intrigue are entertaining, but the real draw is Priest’s latest no-nonsense heroine, who comes equipped with a full measure of sharp judgment and brutal competence as well as a nurse’s kind (but not saintly) heart. ~ Publishers Weekly


…The moral complexity of the novel elevates it above pure escapism, and adds depth to the chase adventure. The stakes are high for everyone, and this tension is continually tightened all the way to the end. Priest has once again constructed a fascinating and fun-as-hell narrative, a worthy addition to her Clockwork Century. ~SF Site

Cherie Priest has crafted an intriguing yarn that is excellently paced, keeping the reader turning pages to discover where the story will lead. Her decision to feature protagonists from marginalized groups strengthens the story by adding an interesting layer to the conflict. Additionally, though the protagonists may not always be immediately sympathetic to readers, they are consistently strong and compelling … Clementine will certainly appeal to fans of steam punk and alternate history, and the interesting characters might also attract casual readers. ~San Francisco Book Review

Piracy meets politics head-on in this steampunk thriller, loosely linked to Priest’s much-lauded Boneshaker (2009). Maria Isabella Boyd, a notorious former actress and Confederate spy, is on her first mission for the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. The airship Clementine must deliver its cargo unimpeded, but its former owner, escaped slave-turned-air pirate Croggon Hainey, is determined to recover the ship he stole fair and square. A simple pursuit quickly evolves, and soon Maria and Croggon are forced to fight on the same side. Explosive battle scenes, riveting action, and a sharp-eyed examination of the mistrust between Croggon’s all-black crew and very white, very Southern Maria play out in a desperate race against the clock. Though the unflinching portrayal of complex race relations is aimed at adult readers, Priest’s swashbuckling tale is also quite accessible for older teens. (June) ~ Publishers Weekly

The latest in Priest’s steampunk series about an alternate Civil War that still rages in 1880, thanks in part to the wide availability of hydrogen airships, is an over-the-top romp driven by pirates, aerial battles, revenge, conspiracies, secret weapons, and a forced alliance between deadly enemies. (Just about the only thing it doesn’t have is true love.) … There are cliffhangers aplenty, and the world Priest has set up is a promising one, but the book’s real attraction is the well-realized portrayal of [Maria Isabelle] Boyd, who is as resourceful, charming, and dangerous as she was in real life. ~Scifi Magazine

Effective on all counts, smart and strong and written at a breakneck pace, Clementine is the best kind of fun reading. Priest gives her readers an excellent time, and adds more layers to the world she so carefully created with Boneshaker. She also gives readers characters with depth — in particular, two memorable characters (along with an excellent supporting cast) who are so incredibly above average and unique from standard tropes that one wonders why it has taken so long for anyone to write this kind of book. The answer to that is obvious, of course — steampunk has been waiting for Cherie Priest to arrive and take the genre, quite simply, by storm. ~Bookslut (reviewer Colleen Mondor)

Clementine, by Cherie Priest, returns to the steampunk alternate history civil war setting as 2009’s Boneshaker, which is nominated for the Hugo. This follow-up chases down a loose plot thread from the novel, and manages to pack in all the steampunk goodness you could ask for. In its 200 action packed pages it manages to cram in airships, pirates, Gatling guns, and an improbable super weapon. It’s fast moving and fun, with a fast paced plot and endearing characters… ~SFRevu


Priest has a knack for instantly creating quirky, likable, memorable characters that keep the goings-on interesting even when no one’s under fire or in danger of being eaten. Any one of the many personalities briefly introduced during Zeke and Briar’s adventures could probably carry their own novel … And setting the steampunk technology at the fringe of the American frontier gives a refreshing spin to a concept now being mined commercially for every possible nugget of bookstore gold. ~The Roanoke Times

Zombies, steam-powered technology, airships, pirates, and mad scientists — ”What more could you want? How about great storytelling, compelling characters, and an interesting plot? Priest combines all of these things and somehow even more. ~Library Journal, where Boneshaker is named one of the 20 core titles of steampunk

[Boneshaker gives] richly defined characters a real world to inhabit, no matter how fantastic the story. Add excellent characterization and a concept second to none, and Boneshaker proves to be one of 2009’s best novels and is not to be missed. ~ Joe Sherry at Fantasy Magazine

Boneshaker was written for the adult market, but there is little in it that makes it unsuitable for more advanced Young Adult readers. … [T]he fast pace of the narrative with its memorable battle scenes and snappy, clever dialogue will keep you hooked and not wanting to put the book down, and once you have finished it you will certainly be left wanting more. ~ Book Zone for Boys

Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is a veritable grab bag of subgenre tropes. But, fortunately, it’s far less about clockwork and brass than it is about human adaptability and the shifting nature of the American Dream. … Boneshaker’s greatest strength is that Priest doesn’t overly fetishize the subgenres she plays with, never overwhelming the fairly straightforward stories of mother and son, and giving her clockwork machinations and zombie encounters more impact when they do appear. … The only real downside is that, throughout the book, we visit too briefly with so many intriguing characters and concepts in favor of the novel’s core adventure. Fortunately, Priest is already setting a second novel in her strange and blemished world, so we will hopefully see a fuller, richer picture of what goes on inside. ~Lauren Davis at

Boneshaker is a cross-genre book that should be sought out by readers of fantasy and horror alike. It’s consistently inventive and entertaining. It’s also well written and a hell of a lot of fun to read. ~ Chiaroscuro

… A mash-up of action, history and science that is everything good about steampunk while maintaining a decidedly original Pacific Northwest twist. If you like the genre, you’ll love this and if you’ve been worried that it’s getting stale or trendy then you will be thrilled with Priest’s way of taking the formula and turning it inside out. The setting is solid but the characters are what makes Boneshaker sing. Briar, Zeke and the people (good and bad) they meet are all memorable. Bored with vampires? (Of course you are.) Give Cherie Priest fifteen minutes of your time, trust me — you won’t look back. ~Colleen Mondor at Bookslut

[Starred Review] Maternal love faces formidable challenges in this stellar steampunk tale. In an alternate 1880s America, mad inventor Leviticus Blue is blamed for destroying Civil War – era Seattle. When Zeke Wilkes, Blue’s son, goes into the walled wreck of a city to clear his father’s name, Zeke’s mother, Briar Wilkes, follows him in an airship, determined to rescue her son from the toxic gas that turns people into zombies (called rotters and described in gut-churning detail). When Briar learns that Seattle still has a mad inventor, Dr. Minnericht, who eerily resembles her dead husband, a simple rescue quickly turns into a thrilling race to save Zeke from the man who may be his father. Intelligent, exceptionally well written and showcasing a phenomenal strong female protagonist who embodies the complexities inherent in motherhood, this yarn is a must-read for the discerning steampunk fan. ~Publishers Weekly

The action takes place in an alternate-history version of 1880s Seattle. In Priest’s variant, the Klondike gold rush came decades early. In 1863, Seattle scientist Leviticus Blue invented a massive steam-powered machine (Dr. Blue’s Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine) to drill for gold through thick ice. When tested, it went out of control and wreaked havoc throughout Seattle, destroying several buildings and killing dozens. Soon after, a mysterious gas, the Blight, turned many who breathed it into predatory zombies called “rotters.” Sixteen years later, Blue’s widow Briar and son Zeke have little beyond a ruined family reputation. When Zeke impulsively decides to revisit walled-off Seattle to find proof that his father wasn’t a villain, Briar follows him into the rotter-infested city. Priest, a Seattle resident, delivers a fast-moving story filled with cool steampunk technology and scary zombies. Fans of science fiction will find much to enjoy here. An impressive and auspicious genre-hopping adventure. ~Kirkus Reviews

Riveting adventure story; great characters; perfectly captures the flavors of the steampunk and zombie subgenres. [It’s got] a great hook; a steampunk/zombie mash-up is instantly appealing. The question is whether it can last the length of a novel. In short: absolutely. Boneshaker simply pulls you in and doesn’t let go. ~SF Signal

Think The Wild Wild West meets Fallout (a videogame series) meets George Romero … the story was a lot of fun, the setting was creative, and I cared about the characters, especially Briar. In short, I immensely enjoyed Boneshaker and can’t wait to read more books in the Clockwork Century series. ~Fantasy Book Critic

There are plenty of alternate Civil War novels, but none quite like Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (Tor, $15.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9780765318411). In the 1860s, Leviticus Blue builds a gold-mining machine in response to a Russian contest. But something goes terribly wrong — either intentionally or by accident, we don’t quite know–and the Boneshaker destroys the banking district of Seattle and unleashes a gas that turns the living into the living dead. A wall is built around Seattle to contain the gas and the zombies. Sixteen years later, Leviticus’ widow attempts to rescue their son, Ezekiel, who has braved the wall to vindicate his universally hated father. Behind the wall, a man who may or may not be Leviticus — and who may or may not have robbed the banks — has built a kingdom of the living, and he has other plans for Ezekiel and his mother. What follows is a fantastic whirlwind tour of an alternate history and a steampunk version of The Lord of the Flies. While slightly marred by a few too many similar chase scenes, Boneshaker offers fans of both steampunk and the New Weird much to enjoy. ~BookPage

If anyone can force steampunk into the mainstream reader’s consciousness, it is Cherie Priest. Boneshaker, the first book in the Clockwork Century series, which Priest calls “her Discworld,” is just the title to get the job done! This world’s texture is luscious and deep … and it will be interesting to see what happens in it next. ~Locus


Mermaids and elemental monsters are usually relegated to more family friendly fare, but make no mistake, Fathom is laden with descriptive gore and jarring violence. … For those who are more open to highly imaginative, genre-crossing works, however, there is much to recommend in this captivating and tastefully crafted tale of murder and sea monsters. ~Rue Morgue

Priest masterfully weaves a complex tapestry of interlocking plots, motivations, quests, character arcs and background stories to produce an exquisitely written novel with a rich and lush atmosphere. ~Montreal Gazette

Fathom is an odd gumbo of disparate ingredients, containing elements reminiscent of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing comic and Stephen King’s most recent novel, Duma Key. It is, however, its own unique thing, an atmospheric war between elemental beings. Priest does a good job of coordinating the action sequences, making dangerously unstable Bernice and down-to-earth Nia a formidable set of antagonists. ~San Francisco Chronicle/SF Gate

Priest’s southern gothic Eden Moore trilogy (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, 2005; Wings to the Kingdom, 2006; Not Flesh nor Feathers, 2007) was praised for its atmospheric blend of suspense and supernatural intrigue. Now she visits similar moody territory in Florida in a myth-bending tale about immortal sea creatures. Arahab is a water witch with a singular and malevolent goal: to awaken an ancient sea monster, Leviathan, and restore the earthly reign of ancient gods while extinguishing the human race. Unfortunately, Arahab can’t complete the task without a human ally. When the opportunity presents itself in the form of a drowning woman, she grants virtual immortality to murderous, sophisticated young Bernice. What Arahab hasn’t counted on, however, is the wiliness of earth’s defenders, who transform Bernice’s cousin Nia into their own ally and encase her in a stony cocoon until an ultimate showdown between woman and witch. Although Priest’s quirky, character-driven yarn becomes mystifyingly outlandish at times, her creative vision is unlike anything else in contemporary fantasy. ~Booklist

Long before humans populated Earth, monsters and creatures now regarded as myths roamed the world. The Creator banished or destroyed these terrible creations before turning the world over to the human race, but a few still linger, seeking to regain their sovereignty over the planet. In coastal Florida, a young woman once imprisoned in a statue and a handful of other reluctant heroes stumble headlong into a battle to protect the planet from a return to madness. Priest (Not Flesh Nor Feathers; Wings to the Kingdom; Four and Twenty Blackbirds) again demonstrates her keen eye for detail and ambiance as she re-creates an enchanting part of America as the setting for a tale of horror of biblical proportions. Part fairy tale, part work of modern gothic horror, Priest’s latest belongs in most libraries. ~Library Journal

Pleasantly offbeat, with plenty of vivid, compelling action sequences. ~Kirkus

[Starred Review] A decidedly dark departure from Priest’s Eden Moore saga (Four and Twenty Blackbirds, etc.), this stand-alone novel is equal parts horror, contemporary fantasy and apocalyptic thriller. During a summer vacation to her aunt’s coastal Florida home, innocent teen Nia sees her cousin Bernice commit a brutal murder and then get dragged into the ocean by a monstrous water witch. Nia becomes inadvertently entangled in a conflict between primordial creatures that endangers the very existence of humankind. Entombed in stone for countless years, Nia eventually emerges from her cocoon transformed, only to realize that an old god is close to awakening and destroying the world. Priest’s haunting lyricism and graceful narrative are complemented by the solemn, cynical thematic undercurrents with a tangible gravity and depth. This is arguably her most ambitious– and accomplished — work to date. ~Publishers Weekly

Those Who Went Remain There Still

[Grade: A-] Although Kentucky is far east of Colorado, back in 1775, when Daniel Boone was clearing forests for the Wilderness Road, it was the wild West. Thus, Priest’s tightly constructed novel qualifies as a “weird Western,” in the tradition of Joe Lansdale’s early work, Nancy Collins’ Walking Wolf, George R.R. Martin’s Fevre Dream and Emma Bull’s Territory. … According to her introduction, the author’s mother refused to read this book because it was too strange and scary. That’s a good enough recommendation for me. ~Rocky Mountain News

Better known for her southern gothic horror novels, Priest here changes pace with the gruesome tale of a winged monster haunting the backwoods of late-nineteenth-century, rural Kentucky. When Heaster Wharton dies, his surviving grandchildren in the feuding Coy and Mander clans are faced with a daunting challenge. To retrieve his will, three Coys and three Manders must stop bickering long enough to visit the Witch’s Pit, a remote cavern in the hills. Before they can get their bearings in the foul-smelling recesses, they are assaulted by a gigantic, feathered beast with a deadly beak. Although their guns and their axes help them protect themselves somewhat, the ghost of a certain Kentucky frontiersman who confronted the beast 100 years before — Daniel Boone — is much more helpful. Priest spices the narrative with frequent flashbacks to Boone’s own beastly encounters during his trail-cutting days. Ultimately, the gore and the feathers are a bit overdone, though all for the sake of good, gratuitous fun. ~Booklist

With Those Who Went Remain There Still Cherie Priest continues her exploration of place and America’s ghostly history. Her stories and novels are exquisite in the way they tap into our national consciousness. For older teens and adults Priest is not to be missed and this is certainly one of her best pieces of work to date. (And if you want the story behind the story, the limited edition includes a chapbook by Priest explaining how her family history entwines with Boone.) ~Bookslut

In other hands, this could easily have devolved into a rote backwoods gore-fest. After all, all of the ingredients are there: a seemingly unkillable monster, angry hillbillies with guns who don’t much like each other, and a party of misfits trapped in a monster’s lair as they get picked off, one by one. Then again, that sort of SciFi Original Picture premise generally doesn’t account for characters like a gentle spiritualist, guided by ghosts through the beast’s domain while trying to make peace amongst his warring relations. It wouldn’t be able to handle the constantly shifting viewpoints and narratives, or the graceful characterization Priest imbues her rough-hewn backwoodsmen with. And, to be honest, it just wouldn’t have writing this damn good. ~ Green Man Review

Humor enlivens the action, and Priest (Not Flesh nor Feathers) adds cool touches like Boone’s ghost and an angry phantom woman … Mark Geyer’s illustrations lend old-fashioned atmosphere. ~Publishers Weekly

Not Flesh Nor Feathers

Priest’s story [Not Flesh Nor Feathers], the third in a series, is chock-full of chilling details and soaked to the bone with suspense. ~Southern Living

The most recent installment of Eden’s story, Not Flesh Nor Feathers, continues Priest’s exploration of how the South’s dead don’t stay that way while subtly evoking a regional landscape that won’t commit to letting them go. Like the best trilogies, Flesh doesn’t require encyclopedic knowledge of what has come before. A reader new to Priest could easily pick up Flesh and enjoy the hell out of its scary tale of Chattanooga, the river, and a horde of zombies. ~Baltimore’s City Paper

This one has all the elements of a good ghost story: family secrets, mysterious disappearances and Tennessee River zombies attacking the town. Well-written, quick paced and detailed, every page is a shivering delight. ~BookPage

I’m not sure how much attention Cherie Priest is getting from the horror audience, but it’s almost certainly not enough. Her third adventure of Eden Moore underlines that point even more boldly than in her earlier works. … it’s a taut, well conceived, and skillfully executed thriller by one of the brightest (darkest?) of recent newcomers to the horror field.~Don D’Ammassa

Spectacular scenes of chaos and horror in a flood-drenched Chattanooga invigorate Priest’s third Eden Moore fantasy (after 2006’s Wings to the Kingdom). A devastating storm swells the Tennessee River to dam-breaking levels on the eve of Eden’s planned move into a new riverside apartment complex. With the gushing waters comes a tide of corpses sunk in the river for more than a century, now animated and organized by a malignant force with an inscrutable purpose. When psychic investigator Eden realizes that the zombie army is converging on historic Read House, she draws a connection to the ghost of Caroline Read, who haunts the building trying to resolve a hushed-up 19th-century atrocity. Although talky and too dependent on convenient last-minute information, Priest’s tale crackles with action and occult thrills, especially in the scenes of the inundated city reeling under the double assault of Mother Nature and the supernatural. Fans will find this her most assured outing yet. (Oct.) ~Publishers Weekly

Dreadful Skin

Priest’s first novel, Four and Twenty Blackbirds, made gothic mincemeat of Southern history. Dreadful Skin solidifies her horror cred. ~Sacramento News & Reviews

Dreadful Skin’s design is carefully crafted to evoke the penny dreadfuls and melodramas so popular in the nineteenth century, another way in which the connection with Gothic novels is made. But while the prose rushes forward with a kind of breathlessness well suited to the promise of the summaries, there’s restraint in the levels beneath the plot. Priest is tackling classic genre questions that feature prominently in such nineteenth-century speculative works as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus and Bram Stoker’s Dracula: What separates humans from monsters? How well can we control our beastly instincts? Like her genre forebears, Priest doesn’t offer any easy answers, and her work is all the more memorable as a result. ~Strange Horizons

While there is still no archetypal werewolf novel in the way Dracula serves for vampires, Dreadful Skin comes closer in my opinion to demonstrating just how seductive and soul-destroying lycanthropy could be. ~Weird Tales

… The goosebumps raised by my contact with this dreadful skin will doubtless lure me to other works by Priest. She is already a strong voice in dark fantasy and could, with care, be a potent antidote for much of what is lacking elsewhere in the genre this decade.

Priest has done such an amazing job of crafting this novel, she has created such deep and rich characters — even those who are doomed — in her descriptions and dialog. She has written a smash bang of a story; a tale that draws readers in from the very beginning and keeps you turning pages long into the night. You will not be able to let Eileen and her mission and all her inner conflict go — she is the sort of character who stays with you from the first moment you meet. I was fairly dazzled by Dreadful Skin, by the innovative way that Priest has found to tell an age old story and by the richly chosen words she has used to embrace it. This one crosses all the genre lines and soundly delivers on the promise of good storytelling. A reader could not ask for anything more from a fiction writer, and Cherie Priest, thankfully, has given us her best. ~Bookslut

A werewolf-hunting nun, characters portrayed with empathy and skill, Gorey-esque illustrations, high adventure and pathos – there’s nothing to dislike about Dreadful Skin. Absolutely nothing. ~Jess Nevins, author of Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana

A runaway Irish nun pursues a murderous werewolf across post-Civil War America in this riveting Southern gothic from Priest (Wings to the Kingdom). Divided into three atmospheric, slightly disjointed sections, the story opens aboard a riverboat carrying John Gabert, the werewolf, and Sister Eileen Callaghan, who’s pursuing him with a Colt revolver hidden under her skirts. Gabert escapes, but Eileen is infected by the lycanthrope’s blood. Nine years later, she picks up the scent, investigating a traveling Pentecostal revivalist show that leaves a trail of chewed corpses in its wake. Eileen struggles to control her own bloody urges, while fighting to protect innocents before she confronts Gabert again, two years later. Though the jumps in time make the plot feel forced, the haunting characters will keep readers turning the pages. When one must become a monster in order to kill a monster, can the hunt still be justified? This book raise tantalizing philosophical questions about good and evil as well as the roles of hunter and prey. ~Publishers Weekly

Wings to the Kingdom

This is an excellent work, rich in local flavor, nicely steeped in goosebumps, and filled with characters you want to know more about. Well done. ~Bookgasm

Wings To The Kingdom is not precisely a sequel, but a second chapter set in Eden’s overlapping worlds — Priest’s beautifully detailed culture of the South, and the world of the dead: immediately adjacent, and always visible to Eden. Wings is more firmly based in the physical world than Blackbirds was, but it’s every bit as fascinating. Once again, Priest succeeds in making her story both straightforward and exquisitely strange. ~The Green Man Review

The Georgia battlefield of Chickamauga, where 35,000 soldiers died during the Civil War, is haunted by ghosts in particular by Old Green Eyes, whose presence allows the dead to rest in peace. When Old Green Eyes disappears, specters in ragged uniforms seek out medium Eden Moore to be their go-between, whether she wants to or not. Priest’s sequel to Four and Twenty Blackbirds brings the past to life in a Southern Gothic tale of supernatural adventure and human drama. ~Library Journal

The Civil War battlefield at Chickamauga, Georgia, where thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers died, is the country’s oldest national military park. There have long been tales of sighting Old Green Eyes, said to be the guardian of the battle’s dead, and now there’s a new wrinkle. To wit, sightings of ghosts trying to communicate vocally but ultimately resorting to pointing frustratedly across the battlefield. What do they want? Enter Eden Moore, first introduced in Priest’s Four and Twenty Blackbirds (2005), who enlists the aid of a couple of college classmates to try to photograph and record the ghosts. All hell breaks loose as a pair of celebrity ghost hunters shows up, and also a crazed killer shooting at anything that moves on the field. The plot, which begins slowly by setting the stage, builds a roiling crescendo and climaxes in an explosive scene at the top of the tower at the battlefield’s edge. The flamboyant mix of ghosts, the preternatural Old Green Eyes, and murder keeps one on edge. ~Booklist

Cherie Priest’s ‘Wings to the Kingdom’ is the second novel in what we are told is the “Eden Moore Trilogy”, and to my mind that’s a shame. Only a trilogy? Well, we’ll take what we can get, especially when what we can get is a consummately crafted novel that is neither fish nor fowl, but simply a wonderfully written tale of imagination, the supernatural all wrapped up in a deep south family saga. … These Eden Moore books, put simply, rock. ~ The Agony Column

Although billed as the second book of a trilogy (following the excellent Four and Twenty Blackbirds), Wings to the Kingdom stands completely on its own. You should read Four and Twenty Blackbirds first, but only because it’s a great book; you don’t need to have read it to enjoy Wings. One unusual thing about Wings, as the second book of a trilogy, is how different in tone it is to Blackbirds; whereas Blackbirds felt like a modern take on classic gothic horror, Wings feels much more like a contemporary horror novel. Or a better way to put it might be to say that Blackbirds was more of a literary horror novel, while Wings is more of a fun and Buffyesque one. Which is not to say it is in any way inferior; Priest somehow manages both modes with equal skill. ~ John Joseph Adams, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

I’m more than ecstatic to have discovered Cherie Priest so early on. Ten years down the line when she’s got a handful of books out and everyone is tossing her name around like she’s Stephen King’s holy granddaughter, I’ll gladly smile and nod, maybe throw out a “I knew her when…” ~Fantasy Book Spot

In Cherie Priest’s sequel to her stellar debut novel Four and Twenty Blackbirds, the South rises again: or more specifically, the ghosts of the South. Chickamauga, Georgia, is the site of the oldest military park in the country – a place where a reported 35,000 soldiers died bloody deaths. The park has long been rumored to be haunted by a ghostly entity nicknamed Old Green Eyes, a hulking spirit with a glowing gaze that guards the souls of the dead from harm. But when visitors to the much-historied battlefield (scene of the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War), begin seeing ghostly apparitions in tattered uniforms desperately pointing off into the distance, the supernatural uproar attracts a team of well-known ghost hunters, Dana and Tripp Marshall, who vow to get to the bottom of the otherworldly mystery.

Eden Moore, a biracial Southern girl who can see the spirits of the dead, is also drawn into the unearthly drama when she encounters the horrifying green-eyed wraith while lost in the woods near a mental institution for the criminally insane. Why isn’t Old Green Eyes watching over the souls of the dead at Chickamauga? And what are the old ghosts of the Civil War battlefield so frantically pointing to? Darkly poetic, powerfully atmospheric and hypnotically readable, Cherie Priest is to dark fantasy what fresh roasted coffee is to mornings – simply essential. ~ Paul Goat Allen, Barnes & Noble

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

Much has been made in the online community about how an early draft of Four and Twenty Blackbirds was published on Priest’s personal blog before being spotted by an interested editor. Whatever its genesis, this expanded version is a remarkably assured debut, a creepy modern-day Southern gothic that doesn’t rely on cliche but delivers an emotional, powerful tale of self-discovery and the supernatural. ~ San Francisco Chronicle

Ghost stories are a dime a dozen, so it’s especially satisfying when one comes along that makes you forget all the others you’ve read, and sucks you into the narrative so completely that you’ll stay up all night finishing it because you can’t wait to find out what happens next — and because you’re too creeped out to go to sleep. Eden’s ghostly warnings (“He’s coming. He’s coming, baby. You get yourself gone.”) are chillingly (and delightfully) macabre, but also serve to heighten the tension of the narrative, keeping the reader on edge. This, coupled with Blackbirds’ vividly-described settings, really draws the reader into the story, making it all the more easy to connect and empathize with the characters. The relentless pacing meanwhile, never lets up and rarely gives the reader the chance to take a breath …

All in all, Blackbirds is a stunning debut novel, one that displays the finely-honed prose and tightly-drawn characterizations of a master craftsman. So, heed the voices: Get yourself gone. And while you’re out, stop by the bookstore and pick up a copy of Four and Twenty Blackbirds. You’ll be glad you did. ~ Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

It’s tempting, when learning that a book is an author’s first, to remain aware of that as you’re reading, almost looking for signs that the writer is a novice. While reading Four and Twenty Blackbirds, I either didn’t find any, or got so swept up in the story that I didn’t care anymore and forgot to look. Either way, Priest’s debut sucked me in and kept me riveted with her darkly atmospheric prose. ~ Fangoria

What do you get when you weave together a ghost story, a voodoo mystery, a family curse, a sharp-tongued protective Aunt, a murderous young man intent on doing ‘God’s Will,’ and a bullheaded young woman determined to learn her origins? The answer: Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a fantastic debut novel by Cherie Priest that leads the reader on a merry chase down a not-so-primrose path from her home in Tennessee to the desolation of an condemned insane asylum, and finally to a fetid swamp in Florida ….

Close the doors, turn off the phone, get a glass of sweet tea and settle into your favorite reading chair. This is one you’re not going to want to put down. ~ Black Gate Magazine

Has this ever happened to you? You pick up a book, start reading the first page never intending to read more than a page or two to get a feel for the writing and, before you know it, you’re twenty-some-odd pages into it and still want to keep reading? That’s what happened to me with Cherie Priest’s Southern gothic debut novel: Four and Twenty Blackbirds …

Priest does an excellent job of building tension throughout the novel, in fact, up to and including the satisfying ending. Writing that can simultaneously set a mood, flesh out characters and advance plot is a force to be reckoned with. With writing this good appearing in a debut novel, I have no doubts that we will be hearing from Cherie Priest again and again.

… There’s mystical, sultry appeal in the thick Chattanooga atmosphere and strong characterizations (Eden’s tongue is as sharp as the heels of her signature black boots), and a mixed-race heroine lends welcome diversity to a genre well populated with porcelain-complected heroines. ~Booklist

Haunting. Mesmerizing. Unforgettable. Adjectives cannot adequately describe the singular narrative brilliance of Cherie Priest’s debut novel. Four and Twenty Blackbirds, a contemporary ghost story with elements of Southern gothic, supernatural mystery and dark fantasy, follows an orphaned girl’s harrowing journey into adulthood and her desperate quest to find out who she really is. …

Priest’s Four and Twenty Blackbirds is one of those exceedingly rare literary gems that will not only engage and challenge readers on a cerebral level but also masterfully manipulate their emotions as well. Lyrical, poignant and brilliantly understated, Priest’s debut novel is a genre transcendent storytelling tour de force. Fans of writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Peter Straub will absolutely fall in love with this spellbinding novel – and Cherie Priest, who is undeniably one of the most exciting new authors to come along in years. ~Paul Goat Allen, Barnes and Noble

… Priest kills as a stylist. Debut novel? You could have fooled me. Four and Twenty Blackbirds feels like it was written by an author with the assurance and experience of already having many books under her belt. It simply oozes a contemporary Southern Gothic charm, by which I mean that while it’s definitely set in the present, its roots are firmly entangled in the past.

The narrator’s voice is pitch-perfect, the cast wonderfully eccentric and realized, the plot suitably puzzling and steeped in mystery, and that setting. I could feel the humidity while I was reading the book. Hear the mosquitoes. Smell the damp forests. Share the same eerie frisson of the narrator as she explores the old abandoned sanitarium in the woods.

In other words, the book has everything going for it and you should definitely pick up a copy to see for yourself. ~ Charles De Lint, Fantasy and Science Fiction

A supernatural gothic tale with all the flavor of the Old South … This is Cherie Priest’s first novel and though that shows to some extent as the novel morphs subtly into various different kinds of novels, all those novels are good ones and she manages to blend them very entertainingly. The stories they tell and the characters they present continue to hold the full attention of the reader, certainly this reader, from the first page of the book to its last. ~Realms of Fantasy

The classic Southern gothic gets an edgy modern makeover in Priest’s debut novel about a young woman’s investigation into the truth of her origins. What Eden Moore digs up in the roots of her diseased family tree takes her across the South, from the ruins of the Pine Breeze sanitarium in Tennessee to a corpse-filled swamp in Florida, and back in time to the Civil War, when the taint in her family bloodline sets in motion events building only now to a supernatural crescendo. Priest adds little new to the gothic canon, but makes neo-goth chick Eden spunky enough to deal with a variety of cliche menaces — a scheming family matriarch, a brooding Poe-esque mansion and a genealogy greatly confused with inbreeding — that would have sent the genre’s traditional wilting violets into hysterics. Eden is a heroine for the aging Buffy crowd, and her adventures will play best to postadolescent horror fans. ~Publishers Weekly

… This is a nicely done southern-tinged literary horror novel. Yes, I said it, the dread genre: HORROR. This is not dark fantasy, nor is it magic realism. This is supernatural southern gothic, horror, I tell you — the horror. I know the booksellers are more frightened of the horror genre than they are of the monsters described in horror novels, but they’ll have to get over it. I don’t know what they’re going to do with this one on the shelves. Will they stick it with fiction, which is probably where I would put it? Or will they file with books full of elves and magic and whatnot? Who knows, it’s very early days yet. … You may have to ask your book-helper to help you find this when it comes out. But you know, with a pub date in October, maybe they’re planning on the Halloween-resurrection of the horror genre shelves. Or maybe, they’ll file Priest just before O’Connor in the fiction section. Where she belongs. ~ The Agony Column

Other writers are kind enough to chime in:

Southern Gothic at its best. An absorbing mystery told with humour and bite. ~Kelley Armstrong, author of Industrial Magic and the Otherworld series

Cherie Priest has created a chilling page-turner in her debut novel. Her voice is rich, earthy, soulful, and deliciously southern as she weaves a disturbing yarn like a master! Awesome — gives you goosebumps! ~L.A. Banks, author of Minion and The Vampire Huntress Legend Series

Breathlessly readable, palpably atmospheric and compellingly suspenseful, Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a considerable debut. It’s written with great control and fluency, and it looks like the start of quite a career. ~ Ramsey Campbell, World Horror Grand Master

Spooky and engrossing, this revenge play is as sticky as a salmagundi made from blood and swamp dirt. Priest can write scenes that are jump-out-of-your-skin scary. This is the first installment in what I can only hope will be a long and terrifying friendship. ~ Cory Doctorow, author of Eastern Standard Tribe and Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town

Fine writing, humor, thrills, real scares, the touch of the occult . . . had me from the first page. I read straight through. An absolutely wonderful debut, and a book not to be missed. ~Heather Graham, New York Times bestselling author of Haunted

“Wonderful. Enchanting. Amazing and original fiction that will satisfy that buttery Southern taste, as well as that biting aftertaste of the dark side. I loved it.” ~Joe R. Lansdale, Stoker- and Edgar-winning author of The Bottoms

Cherie Priest has mastered the art of braiding atmosphere, suspense and metaphysics into a resonant ghost story that offers even more than what you hope for. ~Katherine Ramsland, bestselling author of GHOST: Investigating the Other Side

Cherie Priest kicks ass! Four and Twenty Blackbirds is lush, rich, intense, and as dark and dangerous as a gator-ridden swamp. ~Maggie Shayne, New York Times bestselling author of Blue Twilight