“Profound and enthralling. This book is a delicate dream, mixing its own internal mythology with a brutal tale of prejudice and human frailty. I can’t recommend it enough. Tanzer is absolutely one to watch.”
—Seanan McGuire, bestselling, award-winning author of In an Absent Dream
Amityville baywoman Ellie West fishes by day and bootlegs moonshine by night. It’s dangerous work under Prohibition—independent operators like her are despised by federal agents and mobsters alike—but Ellie’s brother was accepted to college and Ellie’s desperate to see him go. So desperate that when wealthy strangers ask her to procure libations for an extravagant party Ellie sells them everything she has, including some booze she acquired under unusual circumstances.
What Ellie doesn’t know is that this booze is special. Distilled from foul mushrooms by a cult of diabolists, those who drink it see terrible things—like the destruction of Long Island in fire and flood. The cult is masquerading as a church promising salvation through temperance and a return to “the good old days,” so it’s hard for Ellie to take a stand against them, especially when her father joins, but Ellie loves Long Island, and she loves her family, and she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure neither is torn apart.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
When Long Island was rural and booze was illegal, the most dangerous game in town wasn’t rum-running—it was demon-summoning. In this historical fantasy, scrappy bootlegger Ellie West finds herself the conduit between two worlds: Roaring ’20s high society and a group of nativist, xenophobic locals that aims to keep immigrants off the island. Molly Tanzer’s second Creatures book takes a fast-paced, stereotype-busting pulp crime novel, soaks it in a vat of Gatsby, and then infests the whole thing with Lovecraftian horror. The result is a wildly fun novel with sociopolitical and romantic themes.
Tanzer's charming, confident follow-up to Creatures of Will and Temper continues the conceit of drawing on famous literary source texts for character and plot material; here, The Great Gatsby crashes into the works of H.P. Lovecraft, with, of course, chaotic results. On Long Island in the 1920s, Ellie West does bootlegging by boat to help pay for her brother's education. One night, she inadvertently gets into an altercation with another sailor that ends in her acquiring some odd new bottles of moonshine; those bottles end up at a party thrown by Delphine "Fin" Coulthead and her rich husband and friends. Fin is out of her element in the endless parties of the Roaring '20s, a situation only made worse by the nightmarish paranormal effects of the tainted liquor. Fin and Ellie make an appealing team as they work to figure out what's wrong and stop it, and the depiction of Long Island is a fine example of nuanced, lovely landscape writing. The portrayal of groups of normal people falling into mob violence and hatred of the other groups is genuinely unnerving, and Tanzer resists simplistic moral takes. Some elements of the plot are a touch predictable, but the overall effect is delightful.