Jacaranda: A Novella of the Clockwork Century
by Cherie Priest
Cover Artist: Jon Foster
Review by Ellen Russell
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596066847
Date: 31 January 2015 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
People are drawn to the Jacaranda Hotel. Once a beautiful luxury hotel, built on the island of Galveston, it is a shadow of its former self. Tainted by tragedy from the beginning, the hotel has changed hands several times in hopes of restoring it to its original splendor. However, not unlike Hotel California, guests discover that it is easy to check in, but much more difficult to check out and leave.
In order to build the hotel, the original owner had to remove a jacaranda tree. The tree was ancient and beautiful, with trumpet-shaped indigo flowers. It was beloved by all of the inhabitants on the island, the only one of its kind to grow there. After the tree was destroyed and the hotel was built, tragedies began occurring, beginning with the owner of the hotel and his new bride. However, many hotel guests soon followed. Although no cause can be found that links the many deaths, Sister Eileen Callahan hopes that with some help from the State of Texas and a priest named Juan Miguel Quintero Rios, she can stop the deaths and save the guests of the Jacaranda Hotel.
However, once the padre and the Texas ranger arrive, they discover something far more sinister than a string of random deaths. There is a reason that people are drawn to the Jacaranda Hotel. The Hotel wants these people and it does not want to let them go. Now the nun, the padre, and the ranger must try to save their own lives as well as those of the hotel guests, because the Hotel has called them, too. And the Hotel will never let go.
Cherie Priest's Jacaranda is a companion to her other Clockwork Century novels and novellas, including Boneshaker, Clementine, and Dreadnought. However, it works perfectly as a standalone novella. It uses Priest's signature style of telling the story from the points of view of several main characters, but through an omniscient narrator rather than in a first-person style. The novella is broken up into five parts: The Nun, The Padre, The Ranger, The Hotel, and The Morning. The storytelling moves fluidly between the present and flashbacks, which reveal information about the characters and the history of the hotel.
Priestís dialogue is very natural, her protagonists are likeable, and her characters are believable. Jacaranda is a fast and enjoyable read, especially for those who enjoy the haunted house/hotel branch of fantasy/horror. Steampunk fans will enjoy the setting, but be warned: unlike in Priestís other Clockwork Century works, there are no airships or fascinating clockwork devices. Jacaranda is a much simpler, Victorian-esque horror story. However, that is precisely its charm.