Bell Weather

By Dennis Mahoney

Henry Holt | 2015 | 382 pages | $28.00

Reviewed by Michael Carey

Dennis Mahoney

Dennis Mahoney’s (Fellow Mortals, 2013) recently released second novel, Bell Weather, is a fantasy novel set in a world that is a distorted mirror image of the 18th century. The novel begins in Floria, the new and mysterious continent where people travel to endure hardships and forge new lives in the pursuit of something better.

Floria is in the wake of a war between two of the major powers in the old world, Bruntland and Rouge. We meet Tom Orange, a tavern owner and war hero (we later find), on a foggy morning as he rides from his hometown of Root to check on the rising waters of the Antler River in early spring.   It’s tough to tell with swells of flowers floating on the tumultuous waters, but Tom swears he sees a woman clinging to a tree amidst the floral tide. When he is sure of what he sees, Tom races to the ferry to rescue the young woman before she is swept from reach and downstream to the deadly Dunderakwa Falls.

Risking his own life, Tom rescues Molly from the river and gains a small level of the mysterious and secretive young woman’s trust. Molly dares not expose her past to just anyone.

As the readers, however, we are privy to the secrets that will lead to death and deception. Molly Smith, as she claims to be, is really Molly Bell, the daughter of Bruntland’s champion who defeated the Rouge.

Her brother, Nicholas, was always Molly’s other half from the night she was born. He complimented her free spirit with self-restraint, her strength of will with his mental acuity. She loved her brother but her path to arriving in Root without him weighs on her.

As a fan of back-story I enjoyed the build up, the revelations, the adventures, and adversity Molly endured before arriving in Tom’s arms. Mahoney delivers a thrilling, twisted horse chase through the woods as Molly’s past catches up with her.

Bell Weather is full of curious and wonderful phenomena that invite the reader to walk in this realm of fantasy with the characters as they catch bird crabs, or watch the light of St. Verna’s Fire through a window, close but not too close.

Mahoney has created unique and delightful characters that fit archetypical roles like a pair of Brett Favre’s Wranglers, comfortably and with room to play in the story. I enjoyed Bell Weather as a fun, exciting, and enthralling fantasy novel.

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