The Iron Thorn (Iron Codex Series #1)by Caitlin Kittredge
In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and… See more details below
In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.
Lovecraftian steampunk–urban faerie mashup from an adult paranormal author. Orphaned Aoife Grayson lives in Lovecraft, Mass., where the necrovirus transforms humans to nightmare creatures and reason rules so supreme that believers in magic are called heretics and killed. At the bidding of her mad brother, Aoife, best friend Cal and bad-boy guide Dean flee the safety and rules of Lovecraft for Aoife's father's mansion in Arkham. There she learns she has latent magical power relating to machines and a longstanding family connection to the dark fairy Land of Thorn. Detailed descriptions overwhelm (do readers care about every outfit?), characters don't behave consistently (in one case this eventually proves deliberate, but the twist seems even more implausible than the earlier behavior) and the pieces don't come together until the very end, rather abruptly despite the novel's heft. If readers could put on Aoife's blue-glass goggles to see the bones beneath the overwriting, this would be a winner; sadly, it's hard to imagine most making it through the bloat. Better editing could have saved this. (Steampunk fantasy. YA)
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The Ashes of the World
There are seventeen madhouses in the city of Lovecraft. I've visited all of them.
My mother likes to tell me about her dreams when I visit. She sits in the window of the Cristobel Charitable Asylum and strokes the iron bars covering the glass like they are the strings of a harp. "I went to the lily field last night," she murmurs.
Her dreams are never dreams. They are always journeys, explorations, excavations of her mad mind, or, if her mood is bleak, ominous portents for me to heed.
The smooth brass gears of my chronometer churned past four-thirty and I put it back in my skirt pocket. Soon the asylum would close to visitors and I could go home. The dark came early in October. It's not safe for a girl to be out walking on her own, in Hallows' Eve weather.
I called it that, the sort of days when the sky was the same color as the smoke from the Nephilim Foundry across the river, and you could taste winter on the back of your tongue.
When I didn't immediately reply, my mother picked up her hand mirror and threw it at my head. There was no glass in ithadn't been for years, at least six madhouses ago. The doctors wrote it into her file, neat and spidery, after she tried to cut her wrists open with the pieces. No mirrors. No glass. Patient is a danger to herself.
"I'm talking to you!" she shouted. "You might not think it's important, but I went to the lily field! I saw the dead girls move their hands! Open eyes looking up! Up into the world that they so desperately desire!"
It's a real shame that my mother is mad. She could make a fortune writing sensational novels, those gothics with the cheap covers and breakable spines that Mrs. Fortune, my house marm at the Lovecraft Academy, eats up.
My stomach closed like a fist, but my voice came out soothing. I've had practice being soothing, calming. Too much practice. "Nerissa," I said, because that's her name and we never address each other as mother and daughter but always as Nerissa and Aoife. "I'm listening to you. But you're not making any sense." Just like usual. I left the last part off. She'd only find something else to throw.
I picked up the mirror and ran my thumb over the backing. It was silver, and it had been pretty, once. When I was a child I'd played at being beautiful while my mother sat by the window of Our Lady of Rationality, the first madhouse in my memory, run by Rationalist nuns. Their silent black-clad forms fluttered like specters outside my mother's cell while they prayed to the Master Builder, the epitome of human reason, for her recovery. All the medical science and logic in the world couldn't cure my mother, but the nuns tried. And when they failed, she was sent on to another madhouse, where no one prayed for anything.
Nerissa gave a snort, ruffling the ragged fringe above her eyes. "Oh, am I? And what would you know of sense, miss? You and those ironmongers locked away in that dank school, the gears turning and turning to grind your bones . . ."
I stopped listening. Listen to my mother long enough and you started to believe her. And believing Nerissa broke my heart.
My thumb sank into the depression in the mirror frame, left where an unscrupulous orderly had pried out a ruby, or so my mother said. She accused everyone of everything, sooner or later. I'd been a nightjar, come to drink her blood and steal her life, a ghost, a torturer, a spy. When she turned her rage on me, I gathered my books and left, knowing that we wouldn't speak again for weeks. On the days when she talked about her dreams, the visits could stretch for hours.
"I went to the lily field . . . ," my mother whispered, pressing her forehead against the window bars. Her fingers slipped between them to leave ghost marks on the glass.
Time gone by, her dreams fascinated me. The lily field, the dark tower, the maidens fair. She told them over and over, in soft lyrical tones. No other mother told such fanciful bedtime stories. No other mother saw the lands beyond the living, the rational and the iron. Nerissa had been lost in dreams, in one fashion or another, my entire life.
Now each time I visited I hoped she'd wake up from her fog. And each time, I left disappointed. When I graduated from the Lovecraft Academy, I could be too busy to see her at all, with my respectable job and respectable life. Until then, Nerissa needed someone to hear her dreams, and the duty fell to me. I felt the weight of being a dutiful daughter like a stone strapped to my legs.
I picked up my satchel and stood. "I'm going to go home." The air horn hadn't sounded the end of hours yet, but I could see the dark drawing in beyond the panes.
Nerissa was up, cat-quick, and wrapping her fingers around my wrist. Her hand was cold, like always, and her nightgown fluttered around her skin-and-bones body. I had always been taller, sturdier than my slight mother. I'd say I took after my father, if I'd ever met him.
"Don't leave me here," Nerissa hissed. "Don't leave me to look into their eyes alone. The dead girls will dance, Aoife, dance on the ashes of the world. . . ."
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