on November 13, 2018
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Dark Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Horror, Mystery, Occult & Supernatural, Psychological Horror, Suspense
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Amityville baywoman Ellie West fishes by day and bootlegs moonshine by night. It’s dangerous work under Prohibition—independent operators like her are despised by federal agents and mobsters alike—but Ellie’s brother was accepted to college and Ellie’s desperate to see him go. So desperate that when wealthy strangers ask her to procure libations for an extravagant party Ellie sells them everything she has, including some booze she acquired under unusual circumstances.
What Ellie doesn’t know is that this booze is special. Distilled from foul mushrooms by a cult of diabolists, those who drink it see terrible things—like the destruction of Long Island in fire and flood. The cult is masquerading as a church promising salvation through temperance and a return to “the good old days,” so it’s hard for Ellie to take a stand against them, especially when her father joins, but Ellie loves Long Island, and she loves her family, and she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure neither is torn apart.
CREATURES OF WANT AND RUIN is the first novel I have read by Molly Tanzer. This title felt like it would fit comfortably into several sub-genres; namely fantasy, historical fiction, occult, and even romance, to a lesser degree.
“Doing the right thing doesn’t always mean doing the easy thing.”
Two of the main characters are strong female leads–unusual for the Prohibition era in history. First we have Ellie West, who sells illegal moonshine in an effort to raise enough money to send her brother to college. Then there’s Delphine Coulthead–Fin–an unhappily married woman whose husband and friends decided to move to Long Island for a temporary retreat. Only Fin seems to “belong” on the island, whereas the others in her group clearly do not.
“‘I don’t mind him throwing a party, if that’s what you’re asking’ . . . a statement that was both untrue and absolutely not an answer . . . “
The story itself was a compelling read, with a couple of twists that I had never seen coming. I enjoyed the ending much more so because of the action scenes and revelations. The parts that took place at the Coulthead’s rented mansion were a bit frustrating to read, as the treatment Fin got from her so-called “friends” was unimaginably cruel–especially given that her husband sided with them.
“. . . It wasn’t that she wanted to inconvenience them. She just wanted to be seen.”
I also feel that the author’s habit of repeating an incident, fully, to each character that entered the scene, was a bit much. As a reader, I wanted to convey “Yes, you’ve already said this several times. I understood it the first time.” Omitting issues like that, I believe could have shortened the novel by nearly 100 pages without losing anything of importance to the main theme.
“. . . It was disorienting that it was her memory alone that diverged from their narrative.”
Other than those subjects, I felt this was an imaginative novel with beautiful language at times, some unconventional, interesting characters, and a plot that kept the action going–especially in the later half. If it weren’t for all the repetitions of words/actions, I could see giving it an additional star, but the “stop, re-start” style got tiresome after a while.
“What fools men are.”
Overall, if you’re craving a dark story of fantasy/historical fiction, this might be just the book you’re looking for.