cover image Wonderblood


Julia Whicker. St. Martin’s, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-06606-0

Strange people encounter stranger adventures while traversing a postapocalyptic America in this unsatisfying debut. In the Eon of Pain, a diseased wasteland is cleansed by the doctrine of Wonderblood, which orders the faithful to sanctify the landscape through beheadings in monstrous carnivals. Aurora, a teenage girl, is captured by Capulatio, an executioner with ambitions of becoming king. Aided by his wife, Orchid, an executionatrix and the scribe of his holy visions, Capulatio makes his way toward Cape Canaveral, Fla., seat of the king, determined to bring a new age. He also decides, despite Orchid’s objections, that Aurora will be his queen. As Capulatio begins challenging the throne, two lights appear in the sky, as if to confirm the ending of one age and the beginning of another. Told in rich, dense prose, Whicker’s fantasy feels like a blood-steeped dream: there are mummified heads and a religion based on astronauts. The story’s voice is vibrant and warm as the Florida heat; but the pacing drags under the weight of the description, and the plot meanders sluggishly, with detours that make the journey feel far longer than it should. (Apr.)