The city of Dysael is bustling. New innovations like the millhouse and smitheries pave the way towards industrialization. Available education has started to influence culture. A city that has it all, also has its secrets. And now, the women have started disappearing. Mens’ mutilated bodies are found. Strange creatures are seen lurking in shadow. The law and church both seek to restore order but find themselves mostly at odds. Cameron Scott Kirk writes a gritty and insightful grimdark tale in The Beautiful Harpies.
The world in The Beautiful Harpies is set in the wake of industrialization. While manufacturing is ramping up, social norms are slow to modernize. The characters in The Beautiful Harpies showcase the cultural expectations of Dysael. Cameron Scott Kirk cultivates political intrigue in fantasy with a culture war. In his novel, it is not the battle for the throne but civil unrest that threatens the kingdom.
Constable Vincent E. Thackery is one of the main points of view characters. He lives to uphold his grandfather’s constitution and law, and takes his position most seriously. As the death toll climbs, he becomes dangerously frustrated with outsiders intruding in on his case. Sister Kempson of the Holy Sisters of Conviction is one such outsider. Her genuine kindness sometimes masks her ultimate goal of currying public favor. Readers may easily forget these characters are trying to save the city.
As seen in his first novel, The Mad Trinkets, Cameron Scott Kirk’s talent is innovating recognizable characters. The Beautiful Harpies is no exception. Mary Brown and Garth de Silva represent the bulk of society, the folks trying to navigate political extremes. Garth is a surprisingly agreeable character. His desire to escape society by fleeing into the woods is almost too relatable. The Beautiful Harpies is the inverse of The Mad Trinkets. In place of hypermasculinity, toxic femininity is critiqued. Mary’s journey is compelling and sparked with social commentary.
While Dysael is comparable to our world The Beautiful Harpies is, at its heart, fantasy. Cameron Scott Kirk crowns his novel with his own brand of violent magic. He brutishly mixes dark fantasy and horror. The Beautiful Harpies is bold with gaslamp and grimdark elements. There is no good vs evil in The Beautiful Harpies. What matters is what side you’re on.
The Beautiful Harpies is the second novel by Cameron Scott Kirk. He continues to distinguish himself with his ultra-violent scenes and intriguing characters.