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Relentless Melt

RELENTLESS MELT By Jeremy P. Bushnell from Melville House Publishing #BookReview #Horror

RELENTLESS MELT By Jeremy P. Bushnell

Melville House Publishing, s/b, £16.99

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

The front cover for Relentless Melt by Jeremy P. Bushnell.
The background is a swirl of blue, orange, red and white. In the middle is a person in a grey suite with a white hat. They are wearing white gloves and hold a cane. There is no face to the person.

It’s the year 1909, and in Boston, young Artie Quick is disguising herself as a man so that she can study criminal investigation at the YMCA’s Evening Institute for Younger Men. It’s a very conservative time in history, so naturally, she’s terrified of being unmasked.

Artie isn’t your average Bostonion – perennially curious and wanting to be the best she can be, she dreams of escaping the constraints that society puts upon her gender and being more than just a shop girl and future wife to someone. Her free-thinking nature is well ahead of her time and sometimes confounds her good friend Theodore.

Theodore is a very well-to-do young chap living on his own in Boston who has just started studying at the Boston School of Magic. This is not, however, a magic-filled world populated with witches, wizards, griffons and dragons. It’s a very gritty early 1900s world where women disappear off the street in broad daylight, and women and children are expected to be seen and not heard.

When Artie’s criminal investigation tutor suddenly cancels the course, she decides to pay him a visit to find out why and gets dragged into the mysterious disappearance of her tutor’s daughter and an ancient evil that could destroy the world.

This is a charming tale of two people (Artie and Theodore) who do not fit within the expectations of their society, with a sprinkling of magic, some detective work, a splash of time travel, and a good dash of humour for good measure. The story rolls along at a decent pace as our heroes learn more about the mystery they investigate and encounter a variety of villains. The author does a great job of depicting the two protagonists and especially Artie’s struggles to be more than what society expects. It’s interesting to see her journey as she battles to escape from being a neglected child with a missing brother to a tough young person who challenges gender norms and is willing to take whatever action she feels is needed. I found it particularly interesting to see that the author changed Artie’s pronouns from she/her to they/them at the end of the book – perhaps indicating that Artie had reached the end of a major stage in their journey.

I really liked the way that magic was depicted in the story – Bushnell made it feel more realistic than fantastic. No magic wands and sorcerers wearing fancy robes, just normal people studying hard and achieving great things.

The author’s writing style made this an easy book to consume quickly – I felt very immersed in the story and invested in Artie and Theodore’s adventures. Artie’s struggle felt very current as I was reading it during Pride Month, without feeling overly preachy or anti-patriarchy. While the main story wrapped up well at the end, Bushnell left it hanging with a good teaser of great things yet to come. Definitely an author to watch; I will be waiting eagerly to find out what happens next to Artie and Theodore.

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