The Good, The Odd, and the Elemental

Victorian fantasy has had a bit of a renaissance recently, whether steampunk or the more traditional variety. I've got five titles for you, generally dealing with a bit of mystery and featuring strong female leads.

Things in Jars refer to the unusual items and creatures that certain collectors prize in Jess Kidd's just-released fantastical mystery. Lord Berwick's "peculiar" daughter (or is she just a specimen?) has gone missing and it's up to Bridie Devine, with a foot each in both hard science and the bizarre, to find her. Bridie doesn't believe in ghosts, but she can see the one who is both helping and falling in love with her, and is aided and tormented by other equally unusual characters. Kidd takes her time unwinding the mysteries in this atmospheric book out of Dickens' nightmares.

Acclaimed author Theodora Goss takes a decidedly (and necessary) feminist reworking to the great classics of Victorian horror and mystery in The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter. Mary Jeckyll, orphaned daughter of Doctor Jeckyll, turns to Sherlock Holmes in an effort to find Edward Hyde and collect the ransom. Mary ends up becoming the ringleader of a quintet of women, daughters and victims of fictional Victorian mad scientists. If you like your mysteries fast-paced and unconventional, this might be the book for you.

The prolific Mercedes Lackey has her own take on Sherlock Holmes in The Bartered Brides. After Holmes and Moriarty take a header off Reichenbach Falls, Holmes' friends, including a psychic, a medium, and the Elemental Masters John and Mary Watson, are bereft. There's not much time to grieve, however, as newlywed women start turning up dead. Members of Moriarty's gang and black magic are suspected in this descriptive tale with atmosphere to spare.

Amber Benson and Christopher Golden turn their pens to Victorian horror in Ghosts of Albion: Accursed. William and Tamara are siblings newly tasked as Protectors of Albion who must battle an evil so powerful that even the demon possessing their father is nervous. Fortunately, they have supernatural help, including the ghosts of Lord Byron, Lord Nelson, and Bodicea. While the book is plot-driven, there are still wonderful characterizations to be had in this large cast.

Sibling relationships and the need for a place to belong form the core of Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer. Coming to London from the country, Dorina wants to be an art critic, while her sister Evadne wants to master fencing. They're well on their way when they discover that a salon hosted by one of their mentors is actually a front for a group of demon-summoners. The themes from Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray including the use of decadence and the nature of good and evil are mixed with solid action scenes and fascinating characters.

Have more bizarre Victoriana? Share with us in the comments

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Chicago Public Library