Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one. This children's rhyme is only one of the indignities Lizzie Borden must bear. The murder of her parents was a sensational story in the town of Fall River. Even though Lizzie was acquitted of the crime, she is still the subject of scorn and suspicion. The town ostracized her and her sister Emma because they believe she is a murderer and they are half right. Lizzie did kill her parents, but in self defense. They were slowly becoming horrific creatures so unlike humans and forgot their human lives. The epidemic is spreading in Fall River, so Lizzie and Emma will do whatever they can to save their neighbors and prevent it from extending out into the world.

Cherie Priest takes two things I enjoy, Lizzie Borden and the Cthulhu mythos, and successfully mashes them together. Lizzie Borden is known now as the woman who killed her parents and got away with it. It wasn't too different during the time she was alive. Whether she committed the crime or not, she was ostracized for the remainder of her life along with her sister Emma after the trial. In the novel, she actually did commit the crime. but in self defense since her parents were transforming into fish-like, murderous monsters. Lizzie, while not the most educated person, does everything she can to protect her loved ones and even protect the town that so despises her. If even the weirdest and most obscure bit of superstition could work to keep the creatures away, she puts it into practice. She also built a way to get rid of the creatures' bodies and created an extensive lab with her sister (the more scientific of the two) in their house to further their studies on how to destroy the horrific creatures. Lizzie is deadly serious and only lets her guard down with Nance. I loved how Lizzie's history was incorporated into the story. Some may think it's in poor taste to make an infamous figure known for murder into a heroine, but I think it's interesting to imagine a different side to that unsolved mystery.

Each main character had chapters from their own point of view, which gave special insight and made each character stand out in their own way. This was especially important with characters like Philip Zollicoffer and, to a lesser extent Dr. Seabury. Both characters become irrevocably changed during the course of the book. Zollicoffer is sent a corrupted sea life sample that eventually changes him into a homicidal and delusional maniac. His mental state starts normally enough and descends into paranoia and serving whatever spawns the eldritch creatures of the deep. He was the creepiest character by far and  Seabury doesn't become like Zollicoffer, but his mind is definitely isn't the same after the ordeal. The novel  is comprised of journal entries, newspaper articles, and letters that give a varied reading experience and different points of view.

While I enjoyed the novel, parts of it marred the experience. The pacing was a bit odd and lots of pages were eaten up in various characters' introspection and similar ramblings. I simply did not like Emma Borden. I liked that she had a double life of sorts as a doctor that published articles in scholarly journals and corresponded with other doctors like Zollicoffer when she could. I didn't like the way she treated Lizzie, especially about her relationship with Nance, or how she treated Dr. Seabury. Emma was like a bit black blot on the page. She was angry and bitter, just bringing the book and the other characters down. Her animosity towards Lizzie over her relationship is based in reality: they eventually parted ways and never spoke to one another again over it. I just didn't like how her pain seemed so much more important than everyone else's. It's frustrating to be infirm, but her callousness and bad overall attitude went over the top. When Nance became afflicted, Emma was completely unsympathetic despite the pain Lizzie was in. I hope the next book follows the real story and Emma is absent.

Overall, Maplecroft is an enjoyable throwback to the Gothic novel with vibrant characters. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series and I hope more will be uncovered about the evil, Dagon-like presence in the ocean.

My rating: 4/5  fishmuffins

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