Author: Craig Schaefer | Publisher: 47North
Irresistibly drawn to mysteries, if only to debunk them, reporter Lionel Page exposes supernatural frauds, swindlers, and charlatans. His latest case is an obsession—at least for an ancient and wealthy heiress: verify the authenticity of a lost Edgar Allan Poe manuscript circulating through New York City’s literary underworld. But the shrewd Regina Dunkle offers more than money. It’s a pact. Fulfill her request, and Lionel’s own notorious buried past, one he’s been running from since he was a child, will remain hidden.
As Lionel’s quest begins, so do the warnings. And where rare books go, murder follows. It’s only when Lionel meets enigmatic stranger Madison Hannah, his personal usher into the city’s secret history, that he realizes he’s being guided by a force more powerful than logic…and that he isn’t just following a story. He is the story.
Now that the true purpose of his mission is revealing itself in the most terrifying ways, it may finally be time for Lionel to believe in the unbelievable.
[Book 1 of my December Book Bingo]
I received Ghosts of Gotham from the publisher, and absolutely loved it. I actually read it in one day, while I was supposed to be working – it was impossible to put down!
The book is classified as “occult mystery”, but it’s really more a meld of myth, fantasy, horror, and mystery, with a little Dan Brown-style conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure. It has an interesting premise, and I liked the way Greek mythology had been used to explain certain aspects of magic. It was quite a clever retelling, and reimagining, of myth and those familiar characters. The plot is fast-paced, plenty of surprising twists and turns, and packed full of action. It was laced with a rather sweet sub-plot which, I thought, added not only to the intrigue and pacing, but gave the characters’ a bit more depth and realism.
I really enjoyed the complex, flawed characters, and I thought they had a great development arc through the plot, with the opportunity to actively achieve redemption. Ultimately, this is a love story, and the characters redemption is, from the start, tied to their ability to love honestly. It’s not a new concept, but it is effective. I found myself actually becoming very attached to the characters and their stories, which led to some rather poignant moments.
I was surprised by the feminist overtones of Ghosts of Gotham, and thought the book was all the better for its subtle treatment of issues of equality and strong female characters. I mean, you have the all-powerful female divinities, a kickass female protagonist, and supporting cast of strong women in a variety of roles; there is definitely a feminist theme. The female characters are also flawed and multifaceted, in a way that you don’t often see in women written by men. Not to be sexist myself, obviously, but I have noticed the tendency, particularly in the fantasy genre, for male authors to cast their female characters in the roles of saint or whore. Real women are, of course, both, neither, and more… And that kind of linear thinking diminishes the role of the female in their books. Ghosts of Gotham was a wonderful example of a more modern, memorable, and positive character development.
I thought the book made great use of descriptive language, and was well-written. It felt polished and accomplished, and it was obvious that this was written by someone with experience.
I liked the worldbuilding and, while generally I’m not a fan of fantasy set in the real world, I thought the use of New York as a backdrop gave Ghosts of Gotham a grounding which it needed to offset some of the more stretched uses of myth and fantasy. The real-life setting gave it enough realism to allow the reader to suspend disbelief where the author required it. I also liked the treatment of magic, and the way it was given a “how” and “why”, to some extent. So often with fantasy we are expected to just believe these things “are”, and we suspend belief, it was good to see some sort of exploration of how things might work.
All in all, I have no criticisms. I really enjoyed Ghosts of Gotham. It reminded me a little of Raymond Chandler, if he had a book baby with Steven King, and that baby was Jim Butcher… If you like the genre, it’s well worth a go.
I’m using Ghosts of Gotham as my “myth retelling”, “an ARC”, and “a genre you don’t normally read” (30 points) to kick off the December Book Bingo. Has anyone got any points yet?