Ethereal Creatures
Created by ggrihn on 2/27/2018 8:16:39 PM

Creatures of Will & Temper, by Molly Tanzer

Reviewed by Gregory G.H. Rihn, Steampunk Chronicle Literary Editor


Whereas Oscar Wilde’s creation, Dorian Gray (The Picture of Dorian Gray) has become a de facto member of the Steampunk canon of characters, due to inclusion in the film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the TV series Penny Dreadful, I was interested to see what Molly Tanzer had done with the character concept in her new novel, Creatures of Will & Temper.

As it turns out, Ms. Tanzer’s book is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike anything that Wilde wrote, and not just because some characters are of different sex: “Doriana Gray” is a young woman, and Lady Henrietta “Henry” Wooton, is the older sophisticate who becomes her mentor. There are also “demons” in this world, extra-dimensional entities who can establish mental links with humans that allow shared knowledge and experience, and sometimes much, much more. The other chief viewpoint character is Doriana’s older sister, Evadne, whose major passion is fencing, one of the few forms of sport deemed acceptable for Victorian young women. Disappointed in love, Evadne gets assigned the task of chaperoning her sister in London, much to her disgust, since she would prefer to stay in the quiet countryside. That is, until, she finds an excellent fencing school, and a new tutor in the tall and commanding George Cantrell.

The book ultimately is a paranormal romance, with the love interests between Doriana and Lady Henry, and Evadne and George, running parallel until the presence of demons in the mix puts them all on a deadly collision course.

As romances go, it’s not bad. Well written, not too turgid. There is not the kind of stupid secret-keeping built into so many romances purely for the purpose of drama (looking at you, Fifty Shades of Grey, etc.--). There are secrets, and they are kept, but for good and sufficient reasons important to the plot. The characters are likeable, and generally behave in a reasonable fashion, that is, once you get over the hurdle of allowing an inhuman entity access to your brain.

The plot is its own original story, with magical portraits being merely a small subplot. Lady Harry and Doriana are both lesbians, so if that bothers you, I wouldn’t recommend you read it, although it must be said, any references to sex are tastefully veiled.

Enjoyable as the book is, I wondered, why even bother with the Dorian Gray references? (And why call the girl Doriana? Wouldn’t “Doria” be the normal feminine of Dorian?) The story stands well enough on its own. While retaining the Wilde character names adds a marketing hook, I’m inclined to think that the story idea started out as more of a Wilde pastiche, but that, as they sometimes do, plot and characters took off in another direction, and Ms. Tanzer wisely went along.

Recommended for fans of paranormal romances.

Creatures of Will & Temper at Amazon

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