Penny Dreadful

Will Christopher Baer’s Penny Dreadful

As much as I really liked Kiss Me, Judas, I loved Penny Dreadful that much more.  To steal an overused cliché, this book was a “tour de force” (which I’m not really even sure what that means other than perhaps, tour of force?).  Either way, overused descriptions aside, this book is in a word, awesome.

Baer really outdid himself.  I enjoyed the first entry but was a little weary about starting this one (despite the fact that I went on and on about how much I enjoyed it).  I think it was partly due to the fact that I had so much to read as well as a general feeling it may be a let down.  And, truth be told, I did feel that way starting out, I thought the subject matter was a little out there.  An ongoing, seemingly never-ending fantasy based game involving the theft of one’s tongue?  Insanity. 

Basically, the way the book breaks down is that you enter the game, usually through an invitation from someone else, and are quickly established into a caste.  Either you’re a “Fred”, which is someone not aware of the game and is being hunted by a Mariner (one who hunts tongues) or a self-aware “Fred”, which is someone who knows they’re in the game but unsure of where they belong.  Along the way, you’re given assignments and instructions by a “Glove” a person of supreme importance.  You also have the ability to confess to a “Redeemer”, someone whose sole job is to comfort those lost within the game.  This of course is all fueled by a hallucinogenic drink called “The Pale”, made mostly of herbs with a little heroin thrown in for good measure.

As this is the second in the Phineaus Poe trilogy, Poe is our central character.  He inadvertently gets drawn into the game while on the hunt for missing cops, most notably a missing cop named Jimmy Sky.  While going undercover to gain some information, he encounters Eve, a central character from the first novel.  The novel progresses as Poe is drawn deeper and deeper into the game of tongues.

Honestly, it’s not quite as screwed up as I initially thought.  The way that Baer crafts the game, the structure, the rules; you really believe that this could actually work.  It’s clear that this is a genre that the author firmly belongs in as he has such conviction with the noir genre.  His writing is so exceptional; the book is endlessly quotable.

I’m starting Hell’s Half Acre immediately.  Jude makes her triumphant return and the series switches back to the sole point of view of Poe – something that had been mixed up a bit in “Penny Dreadful”.  Hopefully, it’s just as good as the first two.

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