Uncanny Vows (2) (Huntsmen)

Written by Laura Anne Gilman
Review by Kristen McDermott

In this second volume in her series, Gilman raises the stakes for her psychic, monster-slaying Huntsman siblings, Rosemary and Aaron Harker. The near-apocalyptic battle that ended its predecessor, Uncanny Times, has tarnished their reputations with the Society they work for—the one that sends them on regular missions to eliminate Uncanny creatures like goblins, selkies, trolls, etc. Rosemary hopes their new assignment from an anonymous benefactor of the Society will reassert their value, while Aaron worries that his throwback fey talents (taboo in the alternate early-20th-century New England they inhabit) are becoming increasingly hard to hide from his employers—and his sister.

The creature they’re hunting is frustratingly elusive, and much of the first half of the novel finds them wandering around the suburbs of Boston interviewing the family and friends of a man who has been cast into a magical coma by an unknown, malevolent being. Fans of historical fantasy thrillers might need to look elsewhere for actual thrills—this sophomore volume in the series focuses on digging deep into the psyches and motivations of the protagonists and setting up a confrontation with the forces of the Society in future sequels. The depiction of the sensitive and highly educated siblings’ struggles with mundane daily life—boring food, early “automotives,” restrictive women’s clothing, and a repressive religious atmosphere that equates their talents with demonic possession—shows the quality of Gilman’s research, but the level of action is low, and the wit and snappy dialogue of the first book somewhat muted here.