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‘Boston Metaphysical Society: Here Abide Monsters’ and ‘Ghosts and Demons’ – Book Review

Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s short story, “Here Abide Monsters,” was originally published in the Steampunk anthology, Some Time Later, which I had the pleasure of reviewing a few years ago. Set in the world of Holly-Rosing’s Boston Metaphysical Society, it tells the story of Duncan, a young Irish lad in pre-Civil War United States, attempting to lead Mae, an escaped slave, to freedom and safety.

Unfortunately, Mae’s former owner is a wealthy and powerful man who will do anything to get her back. He also happens to have a murderous demon under his control who can track them anywhere, move as swiftly as the wind, and turn invisible. With the help of some faerie magic that Duncan has only a vague idea how to wield, hopefully, he can get Mae to his contacts in the Underground Railroad before the demon catches up to them.

Now, three years after its initial publication in Some Time Later, Holly-Rosing has taken this story and published it on its own, both as an eBook and as an audiobook. The story was one of my favorites in the anthology when I read it in 2017, and reading it again, it still holds up. It’s fun and exciting and defies expectations. It also serves as a very interesting commentary on slavery. It serves as a great addition to the Boston Metaphysical Society universe, but also functions well as a standalone story for anyone who hasn’t read the other comics, stories, novels, etc.

However, the story does leave a few unanswered questions—or at least room for continuation. Fortunately, Holly-Rosing has also published a new graphic novel called Ghosts and Demons to provide those answers. I had initially expected Ghosts and Demons to be, essentially, a comic adaptation of the “Here Abide Monsters” story. While it does briefly recap the story, it also tells its own story, which connects the events of “Here Abide Monsters” up with the characters from Boston Metaphysical Society whom we’ve come to know and love.

It’s now a number of years later, and young Irish spirit photographer Caitlin O’Sullivan is on the run from the law after her last adventure. To complicate matters further, she’s now having recurring dreams about Duncan and his adventures with Mae, which happened before she was even born. Whatever happened to the demon who hunted Duncan and Mae all those years ago? Is Duncan in trouble, and can Caitlin help him? Is providing that help worth returning to her childhood home, where she risks confronting the police, and—worse yet—her mother?

While “Here Abide Monsters” focuses almost exclusively on the supernatural element, Ghosts and Demons also includes a fair amount of Steampunk technology. There are no less than two brilliant scientist characters, as well as some cool sci-fi weapons and other devices. It’s exciting, mysterious, and a great read all the way through.

The one drawback is that it’s not nearly as standalone as “Here Abide Monsters” is, and you really should read at least the initial six-issue comic arc to get the full effect of what’s going on. Fortunately, the Boston Metaphysical Society comics are tremendous fun, and reading them won’t be a chore. Or if you really want to jump in with this one first, there’s a brief recap at the beginning to fill you in on the basics.

Both the story and the comic are well worth reading, whether separately or together. I recommend reading them together, starting with “Here Abide Monsters,” then continuing immediately with Ghosts and Demons to get the full experience. Whatever way you decide to enjoy them, though, if you like Steampunk and the supernatural, these stories won’t disappoint.

Creative Team: Madeleine Holly-Rosing (written and created by), Gwynn Tavares (art, inking, coloring, cover, and character portrait), Troy Peteri (lettering), Karl Ottersberg and Rafael Maldonado-Bad Hand (additional art), and Anne Toole and James Boyd (special thanks)
Publisher: Brass-T Publishing
Click here to purchase “Here Abide Monsters” on eBook or audiobook, and here to purchase the Ghosts and Demons comic.


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