While Manhattan publishers spend six-figures promoting the latest fantasy doorstopper, on the other side of the continent Jeffrey E. Barlough is quietly producing one of the best and most original fantasy series on the market. The Western Lights novels have steadily been winning readers since the first volume Dark Sleeper appeared in 2000. In his review of Anchorwick, fifth in the series, Jackson Kuhl summarized the setting this way:
In a world where the Ice Age never ended, a cataclysm has reduced humanity to a slip of English civilization along North America’s western coastline. It’s neither steampunk nor weird western; the technology is early 19th century. It’s kinda-sorta gaslamp fantasy, except there doesn’t seem to be any natural gas. Barlough’s creation is best described as a Victorian Dying Earth — gothic and claustrophobic yet confronted by its inhabitants with upper lips held stiff. As the books are fantasy mysteries, the less said about their plots, the better… mastodons and mylodons mixed with ghosts and gorgons? Yes, please.
In 2016 Fletcher Vredenburgh reviewed Dark Sleeper for us, saying:
For nearly twenty years now Barlough has been creating a truly unique series that has seems to have escaped too many readers’ attention… If you have the slightest affinity for the works of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, or the steampunk works of Tim Powers and James Blaylock, then I highly recommend Dark Sleeper.
The Thing in the Close, the tenth volume in the series, arrives in trade paperback in December from Gresham & Doyle. Its has been long awaited in the Black Gate offices.
[Click the image for western-sized versions.]
While the deep secrets behind the Western Lights setting have only very gradually begun to bubble to the surface in the most recent volumes, the books remain largely independent and can be read in any order. But if you’re the kind of reader who has to start at the beginning, you can try any of the first three books, which were all published by Ace, and most of which remain in print.
- Dark Sleeper (1998)
- The House in the High Wood (2001)
- Strange Cargo (2004)
- Bertram of Butter Cross (2007)
- Anchorwick (2008)
- A Tangle in Slops (2011)
- What I Found at Hoole (2012)
- The Cobbler of Ridingham (2014)
- Where The Time Goes (2016)
- The Thing in the Close (2018)
Our prior coverage of the series includes:
Dark Sleeper, reviewed by Fletcher Vredenburgh
The House in the High Wood
Anchorwick, reviewed by Jackson Kuhl
What I Found at Hoole
The Cobbler of Ridingham
The Cobbler of Ridingham, reviewed by Jackson Kuhl
Where the Time Goes
Where the Time Goes, reviewed by Jackson Kuhl
Cataclysms, Ghosts and Monsters: An Interview With Jeffrey E. Barlough by Jackson Kuhl
The Thing in the Close will be published by Gresham & Doyle on December 4. 2018. It is 264 pages, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback. There is no digital edition. Learn more at the Western Lights website.
See all our coverage of the best upcoming fantasy here.