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Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest(1975- )
Cherie Priest’s short stories and nonfiction articles have appeared in Weird Tales, Subterranean Magazine, Publishers Weekly, and the Stoker-nominated anthology Aegri Somnia from Apex. Though she spent most of her life in the southeast, she presently lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and a fat black cat. You can read excerpts of her novels at Cherie Priest’s website.

Marion Chats with Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest has written ghost stories, monster stories, tales of the Elder Gods, urban fantasy and steampunk, but she is probably best known for the EDEN MOORE series, and for Boneshaker and the subsequent books in her CLOCKWORK CENTURY series. The Inexplicables, the fifth book in that series, was released earlier this fall. In addition to moving from Seattle to Chattanooga, Tennessee, Priest just finished up a book promotion tour, but she found time in her schedule to answer a few of my questions for Fanlit. Priest has donated an autographed copy of The Inexplicables for one random commenter (with a U.S. address) to win.

Marion Deeds: You have the EDEN MOORE series, the CHESHIRE RED REPORTS with Raylene Pendel, and the CLOCKWORK CENTURY series, which right now seems to be the m... Read More

Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Southern Gothic that shows a lot of promise

Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest

If you're a reader who can't get enough of crumbling antebellum mansions, dark family secrets, and muggy Southern weather, you'll enjoy Four and Twenty Blackbirds (2003). This Southern Gothic ghost story was Cherie Priest's first novel, and while it's imperfect, it's quite readable and shows a lot of promise.

Set in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Four and Twenty Blackbirds possesses a strong, tangible sense of place. I once spent a brief time in Chattanooga during the summer, and Priest took me right back. She has a knack for the sensory detail that makes a book's setting come to life. A particularly vivid scene is one in which the heroine, Eden, explores a crumbling hospital in search of clues to her family's past.

And what a past it is. Eden's family history is filled with all the baggage you might expect from Southern Gothic... Read More

Fathom: Not the best beach book

Fathom by Cherie Priest

Fathom is an entertaining horror novel once it gets going. Cherie Priest spends the first 100 pages of Fathom setting a scene, complete with pages upon pages of infodumps. One character will tell another character a story about a third character, for instance, or a character will have a prolonged recollection of a scene from his past. In addition, the time in which the novel is set does not become apparent until the last few chapters of the novel. A reader could easily conclude that the novel is set in the present day until the last 50 pages or so, when suddenly that appears not to be so, and all that has gone before must be reassessed. The Cherie Priest of Fathom does not seem to be the assured writer who turned out the superior Four and Twenty Blackbirds.

Priest starts ... Read More

Those Who Went Remain There Still: Southern Gothic

Those Who Went Remain There Still by Cherie Priest

Those Who Went Remain There Still is a short Southern Gothic horror novel by Cherie Priest which I listened to in audio format. The story follows two plotlines told in alternating chapters. One is excerpts from Daniel Boone’s Reflections Upon the Wilderness Road which he wrote while leading a group of trailblazers across Kentucky. Every night, Boone and his men are being stalked, picked off, and eaten by a huge bird-like monster.

The second plotline follows the history of Daniel Boone’s descendants in the rural Kentucky area where Boone met the monster. They’re an inbred, ignorant and nasty lot that’s been split into two feuding families. A couple of the family members from each side manage to “escape” by running away, eventually acquiring some education, and progressing to a new standard of living. Each is called home years later when the family patriarch die... Read More

Boneshaker: Steampunk Seattle

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

CLASSIFICATION: Set in an alternate history Seattle, sometime around the year 1880, Boneshaker is a steampunk-flavored adventure that incorporates elements of zombie horror, pulp fiction and post-apocalyptic retrofuturism. Think The Wild Wild West meets Fallout (a videogame series) meets George Romero...

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 416 pages divided over 28 numbered chapters, an Epilogue, and an excerpt from Unlikely Episodes in Western History which serves as the prologue. The book also includes a map and an Author’s Note regarding the historical and geographical liberties taken in the novel. Narration is in the third-person, alternating between Briar Wilkes and her son Ezekiel, with biographer Hale Quarter providing the bookends. Boneshaker is self-contained, but is the first volume in the CLOCKWORK... Read More

Clementine: Even better than Boneshaker

Clementine by Cherie Priest

One of the most entertaining novels I read in 2009 was Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Full of exciting cross-genre adventure (zombies, steampunk, post-apocalyptic retrofuturism), memorable characters and a cool twist on American history, Boneshaker was a blast to read. I couldn’t wait to see what else Cherie Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY had to offer. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long thanks to Subterranean Press and their publication of Clementine.

Clementine is a 208 page novella that expands on characters and events briefly introduced in Boneshaker, specifically runaway slave Captain Croggon Beauregard Hainey and the t... Read More

Dreadnought: Pleasure and disappointment

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

CLASSIFICATION: The CLOCKWORK CENTURY series is set in an alternate history America, circa 1880, flavored with steampunk, western, intrigue, and horror.

FORMAT/INFO: Dreadnought is 400 pages long divided over twenty-two numbered chapters. Narration is in the third-person, exclusively via the nurse, Mercy Lynch. Dreadnought is self-contained, but loosely connected to Boneshaker and Clementine, the first two volumes in the Clockwork Century series. September 28, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of Dreadnought via Tor. The beautiful cover art is provided by Jon Foster who also did ... Read More

Ganymede: Priest is writing the best steampunk around

Ganymede by Cherie Priest

When Hollywood makes a movie of Ganymede — and they have to — I hope they subtitle it “The Battle of Barataria Bay.” That sequence comes near the end of Cherie Priest’s latest CLOCKWORK CENTURY novel, and is fasten-your-seatbelt, grip-the-arms-of-your-chair exciting.

Priest’s books always feature strong women, and in Ganymede, the main character is Josephine Early. Josephine lives in New Orleans, running an upscale bordello. Nearly twenty years into the American civil war, the Confederacy is having trouble holding New Orleans and has called on its political ally the Republic of Texas to help occupy the city. Early’s hometown is filled with brown-shirted Lone Star soldiers and administrators, and she has grown to hate them. As a free woman of color, she is all too conscious of how easily she can lo... Read More

The Inexplicables: A journey through a poisoned city and an addict’s mind

The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest

The Inexplicables is the fifth book in Cherie Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY series. This one returns to its roots, the walled, Blight-ridden city of Seattle. It’s 1881, and the American Civil War is still going on. Eighteen years earlier, a powerful mining device tapped into a vein of gas deep into the earth, and the gas spilled out into Seattle, killing most people and turning them into “rotters” or zombies. The source of the outbreak (downtown Seattle) was walled off and abandoned, but some brave souls still go in there. Mostly, they go to syphon up the Blight gas and distill it into a deadly drug called sap.

Rector Sherman is a sap addict and an orphan who has just turned eighteen. He is being evicted from the Catholic orphanage on the outskirts of the walled city. That isn’t Rector’s only problem. He’s also haunted by the ghost of Zeke Wi... Read More

Fiddlehead: Suspenseful and satisfying

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest

In the North America of 1879, the American Civil War is still going on. A deadly drug from the Pacific Northwest is killing people, then converting them into undead monsters. While technological advances burgeoned during the war, both sides are depleted of soldiers, revenue and hope. This conflict can’t continue, especially with the drug disease making its way to the highly populated north-and-southeast. President U.S. Grant, finishing up his second term and preparing a run for his third, has an opportunity to end it once and for all, by unleashing a devastating weapon that will shock the Confederacy into surrender before any more people die. At least, that’s how it’s been described to him.

At the beginning of THE CLOCKWORK CENTURY series, Cherie Priest said that she would end the war by the end of the series. She didn’t say it would be pretty. In Fiddlehead, all the forces are gathere... Read More

Jacaranda: A horror novella

Jacaranda by Cherie Priest

Jacaranda is a horror novella set in Cheris Priest’s CLOCKWORK CENTURY universe. This story, set after the end of the USA’s long civil war, is a shivery tale that focuses on supernatural evil rather than the sap-infected zombies of the series.

Priest brings three characters to the Texan island of Galveston, to investigate a long string of strange deaths at the cursed Jacaranda Hotel. Horatio Korman is a Texas Ranger, a smart, clever investigator. Father Juan Quinteros Rios is a Catholic priest with a dark past and a supernatural gift. Sister Eileen Callahan, who has sent for the other two, has experience with the supernatural, and a secret of her own. Father Rios and Korman arrive via ferry just before a savage hurricane isolates the island and traps the three, along with several other guests, in the strange hotel.

Readers who are familiar wit... Read More

Bloodshot: Familiar territory with a few refreshing twists

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest

I was pretty excited to read Bloodshot. I first encountered Cherie Priest by way of her Southern Gothic novel Four and Twenty Blackbirds several years ago. Since then, her name keeps popping back up in my consciousness, both as a writer of several acclaimed steampunk novels I haven’t had the chance to read yet, and as a Person Who Says Interesting Things on the Internet. So when I heard she was dipping her authorial toes into one of my favorite subgenres, urban fantasy, I knew this was a book I wanted to read. Bloodshot did not disappoint. In fact, I may gush a bit, because this book is darn near flawless.

Priest introduces an unforgettable heroine in Raylene Pendle, a vampire who originally died in the Roaring Twenties and makes her living as a world... Read More

Hellbent: Has one of the best urban fantasy sidekicks

Hellbent by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest gets Big Imagination points for the potent magical artifacts she conjures up in Hellbent, the second Cheshire Red Reports novel. I’m not going to spoil the fun for you by telling you what they are; you’ll know by the end of the first chapter.

Priest introduced vampire thief Raylene Pendle in Bloodshot, along with Raylene’s charges, two street kids who were squatting in one of her warehouses; and Ian, a vampire who has been mysteriously blinded and can control the weather. We also met Raylene’s new sometimes-partner Adrian, an ex-Navy SEAL who is also a drag queen. Adrian/Sister Rose is one of the best urban fantasy sidekicks around. He’s tough, badass and really knows how to accessorize. This time, he’s willing to help Raylene because she might help him find his vampire sister.

Raylene’s assignm... Read More

Maplecroft: A gothic tour de force by a writer at the peak of her powers

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

There is a special joy when a dedicated reader finds a book, written by a gifted writer at the peak of her powers, who journeys into slightly different territory and completely masters it. That joy is what I felt as I finished Maplecroft by Cherie Priest.

Priest has written a lot and she has never tied herself to a single sub-genre. She’s crafted dark fantasy, steampunk, steampunk zombie books and vampire fiction. Now she has essayed Lovecraftian Gothic with Maplecroft, a book about the old gods, eerie, frightening things that emerge from the sea, and a famous American figure — Lizzie Borden.

Maplecroft (the actual name of the house Lizabeth Borden and her sister moved into when Borden was acquitted of the axe murders of her father and stepmother) takes the form, mostly, of a “found manusc... Read More

Chapelwood: Frightening, eerie and engrossing

Chapelwood by Cherie Priest

Maplecroft, the first book in Cherie Priest’s Lovecraftian series THE BORDEN DISPATCHES, was one of the best books of 2014. With Chapelwood, the sequel, Priest delivers again with an intricate, frightening story written in a completely different tone. Many familiar characters are back, and we meet some new ones, including some adversaries who are chilling, and not only because they are the servants of the Old Ones.

Leaving the chilly, coastal and very Lovecraftian setting of Fall River, Massachusetts, Priest sets Chapelwood in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1920s. In the old estate of Chapelwood, a new congregation has set up, led by the charismatic Reverend Davis. The church is strange, indeed, and soon Birmingham’... Read More

I Am Princess X: An exciting YA thriller

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

My 14 year-old daughter (Tali) and I recently listened to the audiobook version of Cherie Priest’s I Am Princess X. We took a look at the print version, too, since the story is part novel, part comic. It’s about a slightly awkward girl named May who, back in fifth-grade, became best friends with a girl named Libby during recess when the two of them, both new to the school, had to sit out. Bored on the playground, together they created a cartoon heroine named Princess X. She has blue hair, wears red Chuck Taylors with her princess dress, and carries a katana instead of a wand (because “anyone can be awesome with magic” but “a sword takes skill.”). Libby did the artwork while May created the story. Their friendship, and Princess X, ended when Libby was killed in a car accident... ... Read More

The Family Plot: You’ll think twice about a nice hot shower after this

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

With The Family Plot, Cherie Priest takes a break from steampunk and Lovecraftiana to tackle a tried-and-true convention, the haunted-house story. The book, filled with atmospherics, family feuds and long-buried secrets, is a spooky read that will leave you side-eyeing bathrooms and showers for days after you’ve finished.

The Dutton family business is salvage, and Music City Salvage has just purchased a bonanza of a job — a full Southern estate, built in the 1800s, which includes a mansion, a barn and a carriage house. The barn is made of American chestnut, a tree which is extinct; the lumber alone is a goldmine. The owner of the estate plans to have all the buildings razed; Music City is entitled to anything they can carry out. It’s obvious the previous owner hates the estate. ... Read More

Brimstone: The Queen of Southern Gothic delivers again

Brimstone by Cherie Priest

Brimstone (2017) is a throwback to some of Cherie Priest’s earlier work in theme and in setting. The story takes place in Florida, this time in Cassadaga, a real town which, like Lily Dale in northern New York, was founded by spiritualists. Cassadaga still exists and still draws the public for psychic readings, classes and attempts to contact deceased loved ones. In Brimstone, Alice Dartle comes to Cassadaga to learn about her own psychic gift, and Tomas Corderos flees there in an attempt to escape a terrifying spirit of fire, which soon puts the whole town in danger.

The book is set in 1920; both World War I and Prohibition play their parts in the story. What I loved best were the two main characters and their contrasting narrative voices. Alice is young, brash ... Read More

The Agony House: A fun and instructive haunted house mystery

The Agony House by Cherie Priest

When she was too young to remember, Denise Farber’s father and grandmother died in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. She and her mother fled to Houston. Now, with Denise about to enter her senior year in high school, her mother has just remarried and their new little family is returning to New Orleans. They have very little money, so they’ve purchased an old dilapidated Victorian style home that they hope to fix up and turn into a Bed & Breakfast.

After moving into the house, which has been nicknamed “The Nail House” by the neighbors, conditions are far worse than they imagined. Almost nothing works, new electrical wiring and plumbing is required, all of the walls and flooring need remodeling, and the place is filthy. As they start working on the house, strange things start happening — Denise sees, hears, smells, and feels things that don’t seem to exist and then there are multi... Read More

The Toll: Priest breathes creepy, swampy, glimmering life into Southern Gothic

The Toll by Cherie Priest

Cherie Priest’s 2019 Southern Gothic novel The Toll delivers the creeping terror, the strangeness and the surprises I’ve come to expect from her, since she is the queen of this subgenre. From the weird, dying little town of Staywater, Georgia, to a house haunted by dolls, to “granny women” and ghosts, to that thing in the swamp, The Toll builds and delivers on a mood that progresses from shivery to biting-your-fingernails suspenseful.

As a character in the book (and the back cover blurb) points out:
State Road 177 runs along the Suwannee Rover, between Fargo, Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp. Drive that road from east to west, and you’ll cross six bridges. Take it from west to east, and you might find seven. But you’d better hope not.... Read More

Grave Reservations: A quirky, engaging protagonist anchors this Seattle mystery

Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest

Leda Foley is trying to keep her single-person travel agency afloat. Grady Merritt is a Seattle PD detective away at a conference. When Leda changes his return flight plans without notice or explanation, she saves his life — and outs herself as a psychic. Back home in Seattle, Grady hires her to assist on a baffling cold case he won’t let go of. Abruptly, a psychic episode shows Leda that this case and unsolved murder of her fiancé Tod three years earlier are connected.

2021’s Grave Reservations is a slight departure for Cherie Priest; no airships, no horror and hardly any ghosts. It isn’t exactly her first foray into mystery, because I am Princess X has strong mystery elements. ... Read More

Fort Freak: A WILD CARDS novel that can be read as a stand-alone

Fort Freak by George R.R. Martin

Fort Freak is the twenty-first entry in the WILD CARDS universe, a long running series of mosaic novels edited by George R.R. Martin. It is not necessary to have read the previous twenty volumes to read this one; Fort Freak works fine as a standalone. There are numerous references to earlier books and cameos by characters that starred in them, but nothing that makes it absolutely necessary to have read earlier volumes. That is probably a good thing. The WILD CARDS series is currently published by Tor, the fourth publisher to take on this series. Some of the older volumes are pretty hard to find these days. The original WILD CARDS novel (1987) has been reprinted by Tor recently, with a number of new stories added, so if you want to read ab... Read More

Mythic II: Compact and precise

Mythic II edited by Mike Allen

Much like its predecessor Mythic, Mythic 2 feels compact and precise. Both the prose and poetry (and everything else in between) are easy to read and have a lyrical tonality. The anthology is even and consistent, with no sudden drops or spikes in the quality. Editor Mike Allen also continues the format of alternating between both mediums, which makes the book work.

For the most part, I found the poems to be decent and the fiction enjoyable. Mythic 2 continues the tradition of weaving or re-inventing fairy tales, legends, and myths and infusing them with the sensibilities of the various authors. This isn't a long anthology, but the quality more than makes up for the brevity. I really liked all of the prose and appreciated the poetry but I think the former wins out overall, at least in this volume of ... Read More

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded is the second steampunk anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, following 2008’s first installment. It contains about twice as many stories as its predecessor, but unlike the first collection the quality is more uneven here, resulting in a less impressive but still fascinating anthology that should please fans of the genre.

While the first anthology only contained one story I was less than happy with, there are at least four or five in Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded that I could have done without. There are also a few stories here that are at best marginally connected to steampunk, although that probably depends more on how you define steampunk. After all, there are probably as many definitions of steampunk as there are readers. Maybe the best way to defin... Read More

Rogues: A diverse and satisfying collection

Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Rogues, a short-story anthology by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, is a marvelously diverse collection of stories and genres, tied together by those scoundrels, those tricksters, those rascals, those rogues that you can't help but love. I listened to it on audiobook and loved the experience, especially because a few of the readers were actors from Game of Thrones.

When I picked this up, I was most excited to hear two stories in particular: "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back," by Neil Gaiman, and "The Lightning Tree," by Patrick Rothfus... Read More

Why You Should Read… Cherie Priest

Our second article in the ongoing feature Why You Should Read... is by Adam Christopher, published author and blogger. He can be found on Twitter as @ghostfinder. He has chosen to talk about Cherie Priest.

(Pic courtesy of Caitlin Kittredge)

As a writer, reading the work of others elicits one of two reactions. As John D. MacDonald once said, you read everything with grinding envy or a weary contempt.

Take Cherie Priest. I hate her. I hate the fact that whenever I pick up one of her books I know my heart will be skipping beats before I’m at the end of the first ... Read More

More by Cherie Priest

fantasy book reviews Cherie Priest Dreadful Skin, Fathom, Those Who Went Remain There Still, The Boneshaker, The Clementinefantasy and science fiction book reviews
Dreadful Skin — (2007) Publisher: I ducked into a niche between a cabin and the pilot house and hiked my skirt up enough to reach down into my garter holster. I’ve heard it said that God made all men, but Samuel Colt made all men equal. We’d see what Mr. Colt could do for a woman. Jack Gabert went to India to serve his Queen. He returned to London a violently changed man, infected with an unnatural sickness that altered his body and warped his mind. Eileen Callaghan left an Irish convent with a revolver and a secret. She knows everything and nothing about Jack’s curse, but she cannot rest until he’s caught. His soul cannot be saved. It can only be returned to God. In the years following the American Civil War, the nun and unnatural creature stalk one another across the United States. Their dangerous game of cat and mouse leads them along great rivers, across dusty plains, and into the no man’s land of the unmarked western territories. Here are three tales of the hunt. Reader, take this volume and follow these tormented souls. Learn what you can from their struggle against each other, against God, and against themselves.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Button Man and the Murder Tree — (2013) Publisher: George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards multi-author shared-world universe has been thrilling readers for over 25 years. Now, in addition to overseeing the ongoing publication of new Wild Cards books (like 2011’s Fort Freak), Martin is also commissioning and editing new Wild Cards stories for publication on In Cherie Priest’s “The Button Man and the Murder Tree,” it’s Chicago in 1971, and Raul is a button man — a professional ender of lives that the Mob needs ended. But something’s odd about his most recent assignments. And then there are those mushrooms growing out of his skin…