Review : Cherie Priest's Maplecroft, The Borden Dispatches #1

Maplecroft has been on the Wenches' reading lists for a while now.  How could it not be? A fantasy horror novel, with THAT cover, about the infamous alleged murderess, Lizzie Borden. Come on. We were bound to be all over that! (Once our always growing reading lists gave us a chance!)

Maplecroft had me hooked from the get go. I'm a sucker for epistolary novels, have been since I was a kid and read Bram Stoker's Dracula. And I thought this was done particularly well. A bit of Stoker, a healthy dose of Lovecraft, and a little bit of Stephen King's Tommyknockers (or a lot of other stuff) thrown in, and voila! You have Maplecroft.

Click through to see what I thought! This review is spoiler FREE.

It starts with Lizzie's diary entry. And the part where I KNEW I was into the story, is when Lizzie is in her basement "laboratory" and her sister, Emma, is pounding on the cellar door:

She cried, "Lizzie, you must come, quickly. Something... something is trying to come inside. Lizzie, something is here."

Our narrators include Lizzie, her much older, invalid sister, Emma Borden. Her young lover, Nance, the good doctor Owen Seabury, the Borden's neighbor from the night of the murders and unlikely ally, and Professor Philip Zollicoffer from Miskatonic University (a familiar one for fans of Lovecraft). 

We don't get all the facts handed to us immediately. It's a gradual journey through the strange happenings of Fall River, the "sickness" making its way slowly but surely through the people there, the creatures who keep trying to find their way into Maplecroft, the events leading to the night the Bordens were murdered, and the culmination of all that to something terrifying and with a much further reach than even Lizzie could have predicted. 

It's particularly fascinating reading about the night of the murders through Dr. Seabury's eyes. And him living with what he saw and heard for years after that. 
All my oaths were failed that night.
I loved the different voices all the characters had. In books like this, it's sometimes easy to make very different characters sound all too similar. That will not be a problem here. There's a whole group of diverse characters, with their own unique thoughts and writing styles. 

I loved that there was a prominent disabled character, Emma, with her own voice and agency, and a good chunk of the story is told from her point of view. Lizzie and Nance are lovers who have to keep their love under the covers, so to speak, because of the age in which they live, but mad props to Cherie Priest for writing about them, when a lot of writers pretend people of color and LGBTQ people just don't exist in other eras. There are also characters who are atheists in the midst of a very God fearing populace. I definitely can't wait to read more about them all in the next book.

A+ for the diverse characters.

“Is this what we fled, when we left the ocean? Did we grow legs so we could run away?” 
If you're in the mood for a good old fashioned gothic horror novel, with interesting characters, an axe-wielding protagonist, a town becoming overrun by strange creatures and descending into terrifying madness, people who start hearing the call of the sea, and a small group trying their best to keep this madness at bay, this is the book for you!

There's a lot more going on than meets the eye at first, and each revelation will have you gasping out loud. You just can't go wrong, and you'll be itching to pick up the next installment. (AGH! We're going to have to wait till September, though).

“She wielded it easily, lightly. She carried it swinging like a baseball bat, only with more poetry to it. It was a frightening thing to watch, this small shadow of billowing grey fabric and sprawling, wild hair splaying out behind her, the axe held at the ready with both hands, poised and prepared.” 
This Wench rates it :


  1. Great review Zee. I loved this book as well. Thanks for the great recommendation.


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