Creatures of Will and Temper
Tanzer (The Pleasure Merchant
) mixes Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
with queer romance and demonology in this subtle, beautiful Victorian-era fantasy novel. Evadne and Dorina Gray, sisters, come from the countryside to stay with their uncle, the painter Basil Hallward, in London; Dorina hopes this will foster her dreams of becoming an art critic. Evadne, reluctantly chaperoning her headstrong sister, would prefer to focus entirely on her own dream of improving her fencing. And Basil, whose lover, Oliver Wotton, has just died, is too wracked with grief to pay much attention to either of them. Lady Henrietta Wotton, Oliver’s sister, takes Dorina under her wing, and their budding romance aggravates Evadne intensely. The perfectly depicted relationship between the sisters takes center stage in a complex (though never overplayed) web of art, swordplay, romance, and, much to the sisters’ surprise, actual demons. Gorgeously portrayed three-dimensional characters and sensual prose propel this smoothly entertaining story to an emotionally affecting end. Agent: Cameron McClure, Donald Maass Literary. (Nov.)
Correction: An earlier version of this review misstated the title of The Picture of Dorian Gray.