Brimstone by Cherie Priest
Published by Ace Books
Publication Date : April 4th, 2017
Available as eBook & paperback – 304 Pages
Source : NetGalley (Thank You!)
First off, it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be to find a close up, large image of this lovely cover. I did eventually track it down – check out Katie Anderson’s website, I do believe she was the designer behind it (Artist was Rovina Cal). I personally think it does a great job, and it turns out she does a lot of cover designs I like! Also! A video review is available, as before, on my Youtube channel if you want to listen as opposed to read. Link is on the sidebar!
On to the actual review!
Brimstone is what is looking to be a pattern for Mrs. Priest. Put simply it is a great female lead, some paranormal twists in/with some historical elements, all in a standalone novel. I have to say I’m certainly NOT complaining about this. In fact I’m pretty on board with this train. Strap me in, I’ve bought my ticket. Like with The Family Plot, which I read and reviewed last year, this is a hell of a fun ride.
Brimstone follows a young woman named Alice who is moving to a town in Florida called Cassadaga. It is a reknown Spiritualist camp/town and it’s there she’s looking to find help and teaching about her own ‘witchy’ abilities. Meanwhile, not too far way from Cassadaga Tomas Cordero is struggling with his own issues. Fires keep springing up around him, in his house and outside. They start small but things are quickly getting out of control. This is set in the 1920’s, after the Great War in England and Priest does good work bringing our characters together.
Before I dive into characters I would like to point out Cassadaga, Florida. This is a real place! The Spiritualist camp, in fact, is still going! Mrs. Priest has been there, talked to those who live there now, and researched it to set her novel here. In my very basic research I found names repeated, and locations described in the novel that were from the place! I love this touch of realism added here, and I really liked learning about Cassadaga on my own time since the Spiritualist movement is something that fascinates me. So hats off for that!
On to the characters! Alice is a ‘curvaceous’ (to use the words of herself and others) girl who is escaping what she sees as a tense environment at home. As you can expect of a girl in the 1920’s she is a bit concerned with her abilities and the history of her family – two aunts burned at the stake for being witches. Still she keeps a sense of innocence and excitement about her and I really enjoyed her once I got used to it. She reminded me, honestly of my own sister. There was an energy there that might make you think she’s silly and maybe a little on the flighty side but she also had a sharp mind behind there. Tomas Codero is an excellent mirror to Alice. A war vet, he’s haunted by these fires, the war, and most of all by the wife that died before he could return. Add on to that his own ethnicity always having him to defend himself (many assume he’s, if I recall correctly, Cuban immigrant but he grew up in America and fought for America) and he made for a great read. Though I loved Alice I found myself wanting more of Tomas! Both do a lot of growing, Tomas a bit more than Alice, and being in their minds for me was very enjoyable. The rest of the cast, side notes as anyone becomes in a diary or letter format, were intriguing. I wonder if Hazel from The Family Plot was at or around this place during this time since she fits the time period? Did I miss her? I hope not! Also the dog was the best, but who can’t love a dog?
The story is a simple one, but it’s written in a diary format. Alternating between Tomas and Alice’s records or thoughts which makes it a fast and well paced read. Though at times I got frustrated with the delay between the meeting of the two characters (it almost felt there were a few chunks where Tomas was purposefully kept away from Cassadaga so ‘plot’ could happen) I really liked this format. It did feel a bit thin in places but I feel like this was just due to some editing and the length. I will say I didn’t see the cause for the haunting and particular attention it paid to Cassadaga and I think that was due to some ‘just because’. I wanted a little more of the ‘villain’, a little more explanation there. I liked it, but I wanted more of it.
As usual Cherie Priest does a wonderful job building the world around the two characters, I love her settings and the little touches of sounds referenced and imagery is always a welcome addition. She does, out of a lot of urban fantasy writers, some of my favorite imagery and environment writing. The book is a great and fast read. This is one that I recommend for other Priest fans, and for anyone looking for 1920’s stories with a touch of the spooky.