A captivating adventure set in a fantastical world where a young woman must uncover the secrets of her past while confronting the present dangers of a magical wilderness
When Tom Orange rescues a mysterious young woman from the flooded Antler River, he senses that their fates will deeply intertwine.
At first, she claims to remember nothing, and rumor animates Root-an isolated settlement in the strange wilderness of colonial Floria. Benjamin Knox, the town doctor, attends to her recovery and learns her name is Molly. As the town inspects its spirited new inhabitant, she encounters a world teeming with wonders and oddities. She also hears of the Maimers, masked thieves who terrorize the surrounding woods.
As dark forces encircle the town, the truth of Molly's past spills into the present: a desperate voyage; a genius brother; a tragedy she hasn't fully escaped. Molly and Tom must then decide between surviving apart or risking everything together. Dennis Mahoney's Bell Weather is an otherworldly and kinetic story that blends history and fantasy, mystery and adventure to mesmerizing effect.
In his second novel, Mahoney (Fellow Mortals) awkwardly attempts to merge the smalltown realism of his debut with a more fantastical style. The setting is 18th-century Floria, a continent being fought over by two competing colonial powers in a fantasy version of Earth. A tavern keeper named Tom Orange rescues a beautiful young woman swept up by a raging river and nurses her to health in Root, an isolated town surrounded by dense woods. The locals know little about Molly Bell, a mysterious stranger only that she recently gave birth and carries a chipped tooth in a locket. Tom and the village's suspicious inhabitants try to uncover Molly's closely guarded secrets even as they confront more pressing problems: a band of thugs called Maimers are intercepting travelers in the surrounding woods and inflicting brutal, Dantean punishments tailored to the profession of each victim. Eventually, Molly's past is revealed, often through overlong stretches of backstory, and cartoonish villains resurface to threaten her peace. As for the enchanted setting, Root boasts of many "native marvels," including immersive rainbows called colorwashes, a kind of "clinging lightning" called St. Verna's Fire, and exotic creatures such as wolf-bears. However, these details don't so much create an immersive world as add occasional touches of whimsy to momentarily distract from the wooden archaic dialogue. Beneath the novel's magical exterior lies a creaky, humdrum structure.