It’s hard out there for a young woman with a bitter, disabled father who has to support her family and help pay for her polio-stricken brother’s medical college fees. Her only marketable skills are her ability to pilot a ship around Long Island and a certain disregard for being strictly legal. Fortunately, with Prohibition in place, a woman like Ellie West can make a fair amount of money running alcohol if she’s careful. And, indeed, Ellie is muddling along quite well until a storm at sea causes her to bump into a supernatural problem way above her pay grade. Creatures of Want and Ruin, by Molly Tanzer, is the sequel to Creatures of Will and Temper. When I reviewed Creatures of Will and Temper, I called it a very slow burn of a novel. Creatures of Want and Ruin starts with a bang and never slows down. This book is a fantastic ride.
Creatures of Want and Ruin takes place decades later and an ocean away from the first book in the series. The rules are the same however. Demons can be summoned in this world and, in exchange for something priceless, will grant gifts to humans. There are demons who are somewhat benign. Others are creatures of pure evil that want to destroy every living thing. At the beginning of Creatures of Want and Ruin, Ellie has the bad luck to run into one of these one night when she’s sheltering in a small bay when a storm whips up next to Long Island. She finds a fellow bootlegger apparently unconscious on his boat. When Ellie tries to help him, he attacks her. During the fight, Ellie sees strange things that she initially attributes to lack of oxygen or imagination. She only escapes when she pushes him and he breaks his neck falling. Ellie, being the pragmatic type, swaps the strange smelling alcohol in his hold—with serious consequences when she later sells it to a group of rich vacationers.
As the novel rolls on, Ellie’s father gets tangled up with a pack of throwback racist evangelists, her police friend tries to track down who is responsible for a series of violent attacks on immigrants and Black residents, and patches of evil looking mushrooms start to appear every where. Meanwhile, Fin Coulthead, the wife of a wealthy heir who has no ambitions except to have a good old Jazz Age time, grows bored with her life and annoyed at the way her husband and so-called friends pay no attention to her. After a party goes wrong due to the bad booze Ellie sold them, she starts her own investigation into what the hell is going on. By the time Ellie and Fin figure out that their problems are anything but earthly, things have built up into a terrifying fever pitch.
Creatures of Want and Ruin is packed with gripping plot lines and wonderfully drawn characters. At times, some of the secondary characters—like Ellie’s prickly friend and supplier, SJ—threaten to steal the show. This book also has the addition of Ellie and her fiancé’s interestingly semi-polyandrous relationship to make things even more interesting. All this and a spectacular ending made for a highly entertaining read. I would strongly recommend this book to readers who like their historical fiction with a strong dose of the weird.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration. It will be released 13 November 2018.