Book Review: Not Flesh Nor Feathers / Author: Cherie Priest / Publisher: Titan / Release Date: Out Now
This is the first UK edition of this wonderful slice of Southern-fried Gothic from Cherie Priest, perhaps best known on these shores as the author of Hugo and Nebula-nominated steampunk opus Boneshaker. Published Stateside by Tor Books in 2007, it's the third entry in her Eden Moore Trilogy, following on from Four and Twenty Blackbirds (released here by Titan this past Feb) and Wings to the Kingdom (May).
Like the young hero of the recent Paranorman, Eden Moore can see and converse with ghosts and, thanks to past escapades, has earned no small amount of local notoriety. Her services are soon enlisted by TV news reporter Nick, who wants the skinny on a particularly malignant haunting by a 'Woman in White' in Room 236 of a nearby hotel. In fact, this is such a disturbed entity that Eden barely leaves the room alive, and probably wouldn't have had her body not developed the power to regenerate itself as a result of an earlier exploit.
Meanwhile, townsfolk speak in hushed tones of disappearances down at the riverside, where some development work is taking place and a sinister find has been covered up by the company. Things get a whole lot worse when a nearby dam breaks in the middle of a catastrophic storm, not only flooding the town, but bringing a legion of the walking dead back from their watery graves. And while they might not be of the flesh-eating, contagious variety, they are every bit as deadly. What has brought these creatures back to life and what do they want? And what does this have to do with the mad ghost in Room 236 and a mysterious crime committed over eighty years ago?
You'll be hooked on this page-turner from the outset, thanks to Priest's crackling first person prose and sassy, smart, realistic dialogue. The characters, especially Eden herself, are likeable and, for the most part, believable. The flood and its ensuing chaos are described with such verisimilitude that the reader feels as though one is hearing a first hand eyewitness account. Some elements of the scenario may be dependent on a little backstory, but the novel still reads perfectly well as a standalone opus. Which isn't to say don't seek out the previous two entries.
As it stands, this forms the end of a trilogy, but who knows; if enough of us buy and read this one then perhaps we can tempt Priest into bringing Eden Moore back for another adventure sometime. On the strength of this, I certainly hope so.