My rating: 3 of 5 stars
One of the big reasons I’ve picked up everything Cherie Priest has written is her propensity for taking established SF/F tropes and finding not only new ways to look at them, but actively odd ones as well–and in a run of intriguingly odd books, Those Who Went Remain There Still stands out as particularly strange.
And that’s a good thing. I haven’t read very much non-steampunk fantasy out there set in the early history of the United States and to find this one was a pleasure in no small part because it’s set in my home state of Kentucky. Moreover, Daniel Boone features prominently in the earlier prong of a two-prong plot, and any kid who grew up in Kentucky knows all about Daniel Boone. Any kid in Kentucky will, however, be a trifle surprised at this tale of how Boone and his men are cutting a road through the Kentucky wilderness, only to be harried by a monster who takes vicious pleasure in hunting them down one at a time.
Fast forward a hundred years or so, to when the cantankerous old son of one of the survivors of Boone’s party has passed away. His grandchildren are called home for the reading of his will, only to discover that it’s been hidden in a cavern near their valley. And by the terms of said will, six men must venture into the cave–and risk coming afoul of the creature Boone’s men had abandoned there to die.
Except it’s not dead. And its descendants are pissed.
I very much liked the dual plotlines as long as they ran through the bulk of the story, simultaneously showing us the stalking of Boone’s men as well as the reactions of two of Heaster Wharton’s kin who are called in to find the will. There’s great tension in both plotlines, especially as you slowly learn more and more about what the monster actually is.
But the final third or so felt rushed to me, perhaps because of this being a novella. Once the group of six contenders for the will is thrown together, we have barely enough time for them to fight through their own differences before they’re hurled into mortal danger–and before the end of the story. As is often the case with Priest’s shorter works, I found myself wishing at the end of this one that it hadn’t finished so soon. Three stars.