Whitechapel Gods - S.M. Peters (2008)

Whitechapel Gods is an urban fantasy, set in an alternate Victorian London, where the titular gods have established a metaphorical beachhead in the world to expand their power. A small band of rebels are fighting against their oppression against seemingly overwhelming odds.

Peters handles his material well, blending elements of Lovecraftian Horror, steampunk and dark fantasy into a rich nightmare world. A soupcon of pulp fiction adds a little spice to the mix. The two "gods," Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock, are mechanistic monsters, a dream of industrialization gone horribly wrong. The rebels are a rag-tag bunch of broken, damaged outcasts and dreamers.

The story is driven by plot rather than character, since most of the major players are so fantastic as to be more plot-devices than fully developed personalities. This is not a fatal drawback by any means, but it does skew the feel of the book toward epic fantasy. The real strength of the book is in the setting. A dark, super-industrial Whitechapel, built and fueled by magic, policed by inhuman mechanical killers and covered in a permanent debilitating smog which is killing slowly those who are not killed more quickly by the servants of insane divinities, is painted vividly in a palate of browns and blacks with the occasional splashes of bright red arterial blood.

The story builds with increasing velocity, even if at times parts of it become a little incoherent, and an epilogue which is all sweetness and flowers is somewhat out of character, but overall the book is fairly satisfying and the setting completely engrossing.

Overall Grade: B+

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