Friday, February 9, 2018

I knew Oregon was bad....

I found out a while back that Seanan McGuire had written a novel based on an RPG game and my interest was piqued. While I've never played DeadLands, I know enough people who have to have a very general idea of the setting, and hey, it's Ms. McGuire, who's writing I enjoy.

My lack of familiarity of with the setting was a bit of an issue for a few bits in Boneyard, although I caught the gist of the timeline changes. (The biggest one was that in this setting Deseret never became Utah and became a sovereign nation.)

Anyway, the plot mainly concerns Annie Pearl, Mistress of Oddities at the Blackstone Family Circus. Her daughter, Adelaide, is mute, but learned to sign from a Sioux who traveled with the circus. Annie has a past hidden in the City of Salt Lake, but no one in the circus is aware of it. Indeed, when we join the circus, they're traveling from Idaho to Oregon for what promises to be the last show of the season in a settlement known as The Clearing. Set into a bowl, The Clearing has a bit of a reputation, as most acts come out with full coffers, but rumor holds that about one in four acts that go through have problems.

And this being a novel, Blackstone is one of the tours that has issues.

Chief among those issues are the monsters that sweep out of the woods and kidnap several members of the circus. Not that Annie is there for this, since Adelaide wandered off into the woods on her own earlier. However, Annie gets joined in her search for her daughter by one of the circus roustabouts, Martin, who's girlfriend Sophia wound up being kidnapped by the monsters. Out in the woods, Annie's pet Lynx, Tranquility (a gift from her ex husband), protects them during an attack long enough to get Martin and Annie to the door of Hal, once one of The Clearing, now a hermit in the woods. And his story is a doozy.

Seems that the woods are filled with spirits of hunger that possess people and fill them with the urge to eat people. (Because People who eat people are the loneliest people...) AKA they become Wendigo. Hal's wife and daughter became Wendigo after he got hurt in the woods.

Adelaide, on the other hand, a few adventures later, is found amongst the wolf like things that also haunt the woods.

And then there's Annie's still current husband, Michael, who comes to Oregon from Deseret to take back his daughter for the benefit of their other daughter. (This is another place the setting needed a bit. Seems there's a bit of Steampunk in the world, since the wagons are steam powered.) His employer, Dr. Hellestromme, seems to like Michael's work.

In the end, one of the scenes I expected is played out, although not in a way I predicted it, and we again deal with one of the themes of golem creation: sometimes, man is the monster, particularly when the monsters are just filling their role in the world.

While the book is really readable, there are a few bits where you can hear the dice rolling in the background. And a bit more exposition on setting would have helped.