Monday, November 30, 2020

Murder of Angels by Caitlin Kiernan

I really should have read Caitlin Kiernan’s early books in order. When I looped back to the early stuff after loving the Tin Foil Dossier books (Agents of Dreamland and Black Helicopters) and her standalones The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl, I started with Daughter of Hounds, her sixth published novel and third in a loose series. Kiernan is a writer who makes the reader do some of the work, and I did find my way into enjoying the book quite a bit, but I would have twigged to it much more quickly if I’d also read the two previous books featuring Chance Matthews, the protagonist of Threshold and Low Red Moon, off screen here. Those I read in order and enjoyed them more. This year I read her excellent debut Silk. Murder of angels is her fifth published book, but it is a direct sequel to Silk. I’m pretty sure that these are tangentially related to the Chance books, but because I read them in such a haphazard order I can’t trace precisely how. Each book does give you enough to follow along, but knowing what came before adds layers of meaning. I hope to reread the Threshold and the rest again early next year. All that said, Murder of Angels is a great horror fantasy.

Silk was a centaur; half gen-x goth bohemian wasteland literary novel and half cosmic horror. Near the end of that first book, in a peyote ceremony gone horribly wrong, Spyder Baxter’s friends let loose a horror that she had been shielding them, and herself, from for years. The cosmic horror was wrapped up in her own childhood trauma. This pairing of the cosmic or supernatural horror with trauma is a hallmark of Kiernan’s work. Murder of Angels, which picks up around a decade later with the survivors of Silk is no exception. 

Nicky Ky, who drifted into Birmingham at the beginning of Silk and became Spyder’s lover for a time, has been wrecked by the trauma from the first book. From Spyder turning into some type of supernatural monster, and from the suicide of of a previous lover. The latter the reason she was drifting at Silk’s opening. Niki is in a relationship with Daria, another survivor of the first book, now a rock star. Spyder is now in an alternate horrific dimension in which she is a mystical god-like being called the Weaver and is engaged in a full scale war with another demigod/monster called the Dragon that Spyder is convinced is her abusive father chasing her through dimensions. Nicky is drawn into that dimension and conflict and Daria must help from the mundane world. 

So described, this could seem overly melodramatic. But Kiernan’s literary modernist approach to language and frank approach to discussing mental illness grounds it. The writing, the genre mashing, the mental health themes and the overall mood of this book only strengthens Kiernan’s place among my favorite writers. 

Highly Recommended bordering on Canon Worthy

Owned But Previously Unread 2020 80/75

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