Stone Mad

Elizabeth Bear brings back her intrepid duo of female adventurers in Stone Mad, a steampunk western that features Karen Memory and her partner and love, Priya. In this installment, the couple are having a celebratory dinner out in the dining hall of the Rain City Riverside hotel, when they overhear two spiritualists at a nearby table. That is unusual, but not as odd as when a table begins to levitate and, stranger still, Karen and Priya's table flips over on its own. Karen knows she has to find out just what is causing all of this ruckus and jumps into the fray, much to her partner's dismay.

Bear's imaginative and fast-paced piece is filled with spiritualists, illusionists and a mad tommyknocker, as well as great descriptions that easily place the reader in this Victorian Pacific Northwest town. Blending strong elements of feminism and lesbian love, she captures the nuances of an argument between two lovers with perfect pitch. Stone Mad is as much about relationships and how to negotiate them as it is about the strange happenings at the hotel. Readers would do well to read Bear's Karen Memory before starting this one, as there are many references to the previous novel. For those searching for strong female characters in an unusual genre, this is a good series. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

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