Joe Golem and the Drowning City

Posted August 25, 2014 By JS Daly

Joe Golem

Joe Golem and the Drowning City

by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden
 
St. Martin’s Press, 2013
 
304 Pages
 
Young Adult
 
four_stars
 
three-skulls
 
 
 
It is the 1970s, but an alternate reality where the city of New York has flooded, drowned like Venice, left in ruins and abandoned except for the poor who are left to scrounge in order to survive.
 
The creative force of these two, Mignola and Golden, convincingly takes you to another world. They are both masters of their genre. The descriptive prose is the key element of all the novels written by these authors, added to the Hellish occult imagery you will recognize from Hellboy, makes this a gothic-lovecraftian-steampunk-detective noir tour-de-force.
 
A spiritualist named Felix Orlov and his helper, a young lady called Molly McHugh, work in the Drowning City, the lower end of New York, offering his skills as a medium. The action starts when gas mask wearing men invade Felix’s home during a psychic reading and kill his clients. The gas mask suits, it turns out, are filled with eel creatures who then kidnap Felix and pursue Molly in a parkour chase through the city’s back passages and secret staircases, a ruined city of bridges and submerged skyscrapers. Just as hope is failing for her to escape, she is rescued by a street tough, a large, grey-skinned thug, who takes her to see a Mister Church.
 
Church is a 100-year-old detective straight from the pages of the Strand Magazine, while Molly’s rescuer Joe is a palooka sidekick out of a hard-boiled dime store pulp. Church tends devices which monitor occult activity within the city, activity which more often than not has some relationship to his arch-nemesis, Doctor Cocteau. (Yes, I kind of smell the Screw-On Head, here, too.) In fact, Mr. Church is himself some sort of steam-punk android.
 
Cocteau is currently searching for an object that can focus magical energies called Lector’s Pentajulum. Church believes that poor Felix is somehow associated with the Pentajulum because of his psychic abilities, and hence was taken by Cocteau’s hideous eel henchmen. Felix, Church explains, gained his abilities from an incident that occurred while his mother, pregnant with Felix, was being sacrificed by an occultist named Andrew Golnik (I love that they chose New York names rather than comic-book sounding tropes,) to one of the dark and ancient gods from what he describes only as “undimensioned space.”
 
So Molly and Joe set off to search Golnik’s grave in an attempt to beat Cocteau to the punch. It is a long trip through a rainstorm that evokes a creeping, soggy rot from the center, and ends in a horrifying struggle with a tree inhabited by Golnik’s corpse. Joe starts to have vivid dreams that explore his history, but before he can discover their true meaning, he is killed by the eel men and Molly is taken away.
 

Air rushed into his lungs, and he nearly vomited at the putrid, rotting stink that came with his first breath. Death and decay wafted from the hideous gullet of that gaping tree, a fermented, sulfurous odor that made his eyes water and his stomach roil.

 
Molly meets the insidious Dr. Cocteau in his underwater lair along with the thing he has stored in a watery tank. A thing that Cocteau hopes will call to its own kind, opening a rift into undimensioned space and enabling him to make use of the pentajulum to ride along, without a care for the subsequent destruction of humanity.
 

If half of what you’re saying is true, you’re going to roll the dice on the fate of the human race on an occult gadget you have no idea how to turn on.

 
Can Joe return to life and rescue Molly, Felix, and the world? Ghosts! Giant sea monsters! Lovecraftian gods of chaos! This novel is not to be missed!
 
Copper Girl

Joe Golem and the Copper Girl

Golden and Mignola also released a short-story prelude to the novel, (now available as an E-book,) about Joe and a goblin that has been visiting a girl at night; a girl who was once very ill, but then suddenly got better and developed a beautiful golden glow to her skin and hair. But what is it the family isn’t telling Joe? A well-crafted supernatural detective story. Although it is a short short story, it’s well worth the dollar download. I would really love to see a whole collection of Joe Golem fiction, maybe with some Screw-on Head tales to round them out.
 


 


 


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Fury of The Seventh Son

Posted August 4, 2014 By JS Daly

Fury7th

Fury of the Seventh Son
(Wardstone Chronicles #13)

by Joseph Delaney
 
HarperCollins (Greenwillow), 2014
 
480 Pages
 
Young Adult
 
five_stars
 

 
 
Tom Ward is finally taking on an independent role in preparation for becoming a true Spook rather than just an apprentice. He talks to John Gregory, and comes clean about some of the things he has been hiding from him, primarily that his mam was really Zenobia, the first of the Lamia witches, and that Tom was always intended to act as her weapon against the Fiend, against the dark itself, her gift to the County.
 
 
The Spook agrees with Tom that the ceremony to take Alice’s thumbs is simply too horrible to consider.

It’s more than just cold-blooded murder. It’s barbaric. Do that, and we’re not fit to call ourselves human. The ritual is out of the question.

 
 
Tom runs into Mab Moldheel again, and she tells Tom of Alice’s new plan to recite the Doomdryte, but also informs him that she was kidnapped by its author. Legend told that the mage Lukrasta had died trying to recite the entire book flawlessly, an act that would have granted him nearly enough power to become a god. Apparently he didn’t fail after all.
 
 
The first US edition of the book has a terrible editing flaw on page 43. I had to stop, flip back, and figure out that they had repeated a paragraph, suspending the narrative flow.
 
 

I would love to see a Spook’s Apprentice board game. The Race to Pendle!
Oh no, my luck card reads: “Grimalkin takes your thumbs, lose a turn!”

 
 
As we watch the Spook write his last will and testament, he and Tom prepare for a visit to the Wardstone, a great mountain to the West that has strange properties, including, possibly, the ability to travel through time… while carrying someone with it! Soon the pair meet up with their old fair-weather ally when they discover Grimalkin in a pool of her own blood. She is still alive, but has lost the Fiend’s head while hopelessly outnumbered. They take her back to Chippenden with dread in their hearts.
 
 
The Bestiary has now appeared in every spook book since its conception, like Lovecraft and his Necronomicon; it is an old friend for Tom to carry forward into his new life.
 
 
Tom discovers a new gift, a part of his heritage. It is the hunter’s gift to detect the direction of his prey, whether it’s a rabbit for dinner, the woman he loves, or the Fiend’s head.
 
 
As a kick in the teeth, Tom sees that the witches who left Grimalkin for dead have no plans to repatriate the head back to Ireland. The Fiend’s body was brought all the way to the County! While attempting to retrieve it from within a fortified tower, Tom is is attacked by Lukrasta, the mage who was supposed to have died in the Doomdryte ritual. And by Alice, now apparently in his thrall. Tom has a weapon in his back pocket, though. He calls on the Boggart for help!
 
 
Once inside, Tom takes a sledgehammer to the heart. Alice and Lukrasta have shared a bed, and she has left him a “Dear John” letter. I felt Tom’s pain acutely; the woman he loves is now willingly in the arms of another. She has gone to the dark.
 
 
On the return journey, Fiend’s head in hand, Tom is cornered by a contingent of witches. In rides Grimalkin to rescue him, tied to a horse because her body is still so badly damaged. Riding back with her, they stop to bathe, and Tom sees her naked. I wonder just what will develop between these two in the next series, The Starblade Chronicles?
 
 
Trap door: A water witch drags you back to the lair of the skelts.
Escape only on a roll of 5 or 6 on your next turn.

 
 
Once safely back in Chippenden, Grimalkin has Tom help re-break her leg and she sets it with a silver pin that will cause her extreme pain for the rest of her days. Luckily she knows Jedi mind tricks.
 
 
Alice comes in the night to take back the head of the Fiend. Though Tom binds her with his Mam’s silver chain, Alice disappears. But first she tears him apart by telling him she is truly in love with Lukrasta, that she has fallen to the dark, and she reveals to him her now complete full-moon birthmark. She is now supporting the Fiend because she, like the mage, believes Him to be less of a threat than the god of the Kobalos, who will surely take power if the Fiend dies.
 
 
Hmmm… The god of the Kobalos is a skelt, and the Destiny blade has a skelt on it…
 
 
Kratch, the boggart, is suddenly gone after Alice’s visit, no doubt some revenge by Lukastra for the damage it did at the tower. When it finally re-appears, it asks for Tom’s blood a second time, which he gives. Then Tom remembers that a witch binds her familiar by allowing it to drink three times. What will he do when the boggart asks again?
 
 

I was afraid to offer more of my blood, afraid that I might die in the process, afraid of what the consequences might be. But if I wished to have the boggart as an ally—how could I refuse?

 
 
Forces are gathered as an army from those witches who oppose The Fiend, including Tom’s brother James, and a War Council is held at the Spook’s home in Chippenden: Bill Arkwright’s replacement in water witch territory to the North, Judd Brinscall, is there; Mab is invited, Grimalkin is accepted as the leader, and (YAY!) Slake joins the team. The good guys need a new plan now that Alice is no longer a willing sacrifice. The odds are against us and the situation is grim.
 
 


 
 
The battle is joined at the Wardstone. Many other witch assassins from beyond the county come, the Fiend is strung up, his head attached, and the ritual to revive Him begins! The forces all clash at once in a great explosion of thunder and steel!
 
 

There were other witches carrying blades like Grimalkin, and I wondered if they were the assassins of clans that dwelled far beyond the county. Some witches carried long poles with blades lashed to the end. But it wasn’t their weapons that filled my heart with foreboding; it was the sheer number of them. After ten minutes the column was still emerging from the mist.

 
 

A wick witch slithers in your window! Go back three spaces!

 
 
Sadly, I feel like this book was just a setup for the next series where Tom is the Spook. It was not fulfilling as the culmination of a thirteen book series. I myself feel betrayed by Alice, though admittedly I knew a “betrayal” was coming. I had expected Alice to die. The romance that made me fall in love with the first thirteen books now causes bile to rise in my throat. I feel like Dumbledore just died. The concrete that holds the whole story together is the relationship between Alice and Tom, and I am not sure how long I will hang onto the new Starblade Chronicles with her as a hostile force. The series will be lost completely without Arrasmiths woodcuts.
 
 


 






 


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Cemetery Girl

Posted July 16, 2014 By JS Daly

Cemetery Girl 1

Cemetery Girl
(Book 1: The Pretenders)

by Christopher Golden
& Charlaine Harris
 
InkLit, 2014
 
128 Pages
 
Young Adult
 
three_stars
 

 
 
 
When the author’s name is emblazoned on the cover even larger than the title of a book, we expect it to be good, the fruits of a master. Cemetery Girl has promise, a graphic novel penned by Christopher Golden (Baltimore) and Charlaine Harris (True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse series). The first installment of the dark thriller introduces us to an unnamed protagonist, but the story is To Be Continued…

A girl wakes up in a graveyard and her only memory is of dying. She is a victim of amnesia, but she can sense something quite bad has happened. Memory flashes ensue of her being injected with something horrible by an intruder, but she has no idea who it was, why, or even who she is. Nonetheless, she realizes that if whoever dumped her in the cemetery discovers she is still walking, they will likely return to finish the job. She steals a name from those surrounding her: Calexa Rose Dunhill.

The caretaker of the cemetery starts referring to the girl as his “little ghost” as he notices food missing from his kitchen. The girl also makes an ally in a lady who catches Calexa red-handed in her fridge one night. The story picks up when a group of rowdy teens breaks into the cemetery to practice a magickal ritual. When they return for the real deal, a death occurs, and Calexa is thrown between a rock and a hard place. If she reports what she has witnessed, she will be discovered hiding out in the cemetery. Throwing a real twist into the mystery are the ghosts of the cemetery’s inhabitants, who she can now see. A stolen smart phone is a key component of this noir adventure, which is a welcome, modern angle.

The mix of adventure and supernatural is spot on, just enough to leave you hanging for the over-arching storyline while the intense drama of Book One is brought to a fulfilling close. The artwork is good, not artsy, but realistic with nice dark, autumn shades of color. It smells distinctly like a Vertigo title, though it is published by Penguin’s InkLit imprint. I am waiting anxiously for the next chapter, since this introduction to the mystery girl Calexa passed quickly, inviting a re-read.
 


 


 


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Theodosia and
The Last Pharaoh

Posted July 3, 2014 By JS Daly

Theodosia Last Pharaoh

Theodosia (Book 4) &
The Last Pharaoh

By R.L. LaFevers
 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012
 
400 Pages
 
Mid-Grade (Ages 9-12)
 

 

 
 
As the smoke clears from the battlefield of Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus, our young protagonist is given a task to return the Emerald Tablet to Egypt, directly to the Wedjadeen!

Upon arrival, she meets secretly with her version of James Bond’s ‘Q,’ Doctor Seymour Quillings, head of the Brotherhood of Chosen Keepers’ Research and Development branch. He gifts her with awesome heavy weaponry like the curse of one-thousand scorpion stings (ouch!), a powder compact filled with sand from a pharaoh’s tomb, and a homing device pocket-watch! Meanwhile, her mother is meeting with a man she believes to be working for the antiquities service, but is in fact, none other than von Braggenschnott of the Serpents of Chaos!

After being pursued by a man named Carruthers who works for the Serpents, Theodosia finds herself lost is a sea of nationalist protestors and enlists the aid of a donkey-boy named Gadji (and his monkey, Sefu,) who helps her escape the angry mob.

Theodosia is eager to learn more about what it means that she was born in a Temple of Isis and was accepted as a gift to the Goddess. Under the pretense of locating the lost Temple of Thutmose III, she sets forth to meet with the Wedjadeen… but finds them less than hospitable. In fact, they begin discussing whether they should cut out her tongue or just kill her on the spot.

This was a thick miasma of magic and curses. Far removed from the source of their power, they buzzed faintly in the air, an invisible swarm of tiny, malevolent insects. With so much of it contained in such a confined space, there was the distinct sense of pressure building– like the air just before a thunderstorm.

Major Harriman Grindle, The Brotherhood’s contact in Luxor, becomes a steadfast ally to Theodosia. The strange thing about him though, is that unlike Wigmere and the Brotherhood of Chosen Keepers in London, Major Grindle has no reservations about the use of ancient magic. The front lines, you know, require rather less ethical philosophy and more direct action. Grindle also knows things about Theodosia’s grandfather, and he helps put some pieces together for her. It is interesting that both the Brotherhood and the Wedjadeen bear the wedjat eye tattoo.

Theodosia returns the Tablet to its rightful protectors (we think,) but despite this, the Wedjadeen again threaten to kill her unless she now hands over the other treasure! The real treasure that she keeps by her side. The donkey boy, they inform her, is more than what he appears. Gadji is a descendant of the last true pharaoh of Egypt.

Then the Serpents of Chaos demand the tablet which Theodosia no longer has in her possession, or they will kill her mother. Grindle helps to make a fake tablet with his magic, but it will only last for a short time. Isis disappears, and the monkey, Sefu is gravely injured. The Wedjadeen take Major Grindle and Theodosia captive and place them on trial for knowing things they should not know. Luckily, an elderly woman speaks up and declares Theodosia “Rekhet,” a seer. Will Theodosia be able to escape the very people she came to Egypt to help and then save the boy pharaoh from the clutches of the Serpents of Chaos?

The Chosen Keepers are descendants of the ancient librarians of the Royal Library of Alexandria– the few, the proud, and the learned. We have sworn an oath to seek out and replace all the ancient knowledge that was lost when our great library was destroyed by Emperor Theodosius. Our goal is to reignite the flame of knowledge and restore it to mankind.

The story explodes in a final crescendo as the Eyes of Horus and the Brotherhood face off against the Serpents of Chaos with the life of both the young Pharaoh and Theodosia’s mother at stake! Giant sphinxes come to life! A thousand scorpions sting! Will Theodosia finally clear Awi Bubu’s name? Will she even survive?


Effendi
It is a title of respect or courtesy, equivalent to the English Sir, which was used in Ottoman Empire. It is generally given to members of the learned professions and to government officials.
 
Sefu
African word meaning “sword”
 
Rekhet
These wise women were consulted as seers who could make contact with the dead. They had the special ability to sense the presence of a god and particularly to determine whether someone had been placed under a spell, or baw, and which evil spirit or deity was responsible.

 


Related Posts:
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos
Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris
Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus
Theodosia and the Last Pharaoh


 


 


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Greetings From the Graveyard

Posted June 18, 2014 By JS Daly

Greetings_Graveyard

Greetings
From The Graveyard
(43 Old Cemetery Road #6)

 
By Kate & Sarah and Klige
 
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
 
160 Pages
 
four_stars
 

 
 

AGE RANGE: 9-12
SCARY STUFF: None
VIOLENCE: There is a burglary
SEXUALITY: A man and a female ghost living together have adopted a boy
ADULT TOPICS: Love letters are used as blackmail

 
The famous authors of 43 Cemetery Road, Olive C. Spence and Ignatius B. Grumply, are starting a new business! Identifying a need for “cards in rhyme for difficult times,” the family begins designing greeting cards for awkward occasions and when things go badly– illustrated, of course, by their adopted son, Seymour Hope.

Nadia S. Richenov, a lady who once turned down a marriage proposal from Ignatius, is back in the picture now that she smells Iggy’s writing success. Meanwhile, two con-artist convicts have escaped from prison in Peoria and are headed straight for Ghastly, Illinois! Seymour keeps worrying that the new folks in town who have also started a new business look just like the convicts. But why would scam artists sell security systems?

An art appraiser, Art Smart, visits with his show What’s it Worth?, and declares the portrait of Olive hanging in the parlor of Spence Mansion to be worth a million dollars. Boy does that perk Nadia’s ears! She offers to nix her plans to write a tell-all gossip book about the scandalous past she and Ignatius shared… if he will hand over the painting.

Offering to sell a tell-all book about me to Paige Turner is one thing. Luring my innocent son into your web of deceit is another thing entirely…

The intrigue begins as burglaries begin in Ghastly and Olive invites her old employee, T. Leeves, to return to service… as a ghostly butler! A race for the painting begins as the two criminals, Nadia, and Nadia’s new partner in blackmail –none other than Iggy’s editor Paige Turner—all make a play for the million-dollar painting.

The latest installment in the 43 Old Cemetery Road series lives up to its predecessors, a comedy meets arsenic and old-lace mystery for the seven to twelve year-old set. It introduces new characters to the usual cast, continuing the adventures of a reclusive author and his ghost writer companion. Kids who like mild suspense will enjoy this not-at-all scary ghost story conveyed through newspaper clippings, letters, and text messages.
 


 


 


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