Brimstone by Cherie Priest. ★★★
I’ve been following Cherie Priest’s work for years, so it was with not a little anticipation I picked up this newest outing from her. Unfortunately, I was expecting and desiring a historical fantasy story, but I found Brimstone to be more horror with a Southern Gothic twist.
Alice Dartle is descended from a long line of witches, but she has no idea how to use her clairvoyant abilities. The town of Cassadaga, Florida, a community of similarly gifted people seems to hold the answer. But as she draws closer to the town, she keeps having dreams of fire and trenches. She knows that these are not her own dreams, and she believes that she can help the dreamer.
Tomas Cordero came back from World War I to find his wife dead of influenza. He continues to operate his tailoring business, but he’s haunted by the memories of his wife. Since his return, inexplicable fires have hounded him. Could they be messages from the beyond?
For whatever reason, Brimstone left me cold. A few scenes did manage to effectively convey the skin crawling tension of horror novels, but most of the novel crawled by. By the last ten percent, I was rushing through it so I could start a different book instead.
Brimstone seemed competently executed, but none of its elements interested me. It didn’t have the brilliant world building or use of magic that I come to the fantasy genre for. I remained luke warm on both Alice and Tomas. And I never found myself getting invested in the plot.
I think Brimstone could have better developed both it’s lead and supporting characters. I found myself mixing up even the more important of the supporting characters. Tomas was probably the best of the entire cast. His desperation and grief shone through, and he had some of the best scenes. However, Alice felt like she lacked motivation. Outside of helping Tomas, she didn’t have her own goals, and it hurt her character.
Overall, Brimstone was both disappointing and forgettable. It’s a stand alone, but if it wasn’t, I would not be picking up the sequel. This one is not recommended, although I hope other readers can find more enjoyment in it than I did.
I received an ARC of Brimstone from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review.