Paula Guran Reviews The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Gies­brecht

The Monster of Elendhaven, Jennifer Gies­brecht ( Publishing 978-1-250-22568-9 $16.99. 160pp, hc) September 2019.

Johann is a monster who kills as easily as he breathes. Apparently superhuman, he is able to quickly heal from any injury. Johann lives in Elendhaven, a dying city that lies on a “foul spit of land” in the (literally) black sea of a bay called Bad Moon. Elendhaven’s culture, one character says, is tragedy. Magic was once fundamental here, but it almost destroyed the world and its practice is now punishable by death. There is at least one secret sorcerer left: Florian Leickenbloom, the decadent last son of one of the founding families. Johann seeks Florian out, and they soon share a passion – and an apoca­lyptic revenge plot – as dark as their respective hearts. Debut novella author Giesbrecht’s prose is rich but never overwrought. In short space, she creates a fascinating gothic Industrial Era world that somehow brought Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris to mind and makes anything Tim Burton ever imagined look like the work of a Sunday school teacher. Like Burton, though, there’s some playfulness involved in this dark – heck, stygian – fantasy. If you recognize that, you’ll find The Monster of Elendhaven a deli­cious read. Publishing offers yet another top-flight new author to keep track of.

Paula Guran has edited more than 40 science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies and more than 50 novels and collections featuring the same. She’s reviewed and written articles for dozens of publications. She lives in Akron, Ohio, near enough to her grandchildren to frequently be indulgent.

This review and more like it in the October 2019 issue of Locus.

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