Mermaid makes vampires--
copper & arsenic make bronze,
This is an odd little book, & I think I really enjoyed it. To shorthand the premise on a meta-level, a mer-like "water witch"-- an elemental of godlike dimensions-- wants to wake the Leviathan at the world's core & end all life. To that end she makes a couple of blood thirsty shark children-- a pirate & a nasty socialite-- to do her bidding. Opposing her is, well-- Swamp-Thing. Or the elemental of Decay, who was once Death. He makes a statue-elemental to fight the others. With her comes an insurance adjuster. Sounds a little odd? Well, during the first half of the book, she's just a statue-- not a moving statue. A statue.
The prose is really interesting? Almost backwards. Evasive. You feel like the subject of the paragraphs are at the end instead of the begining. Elusive. Which feeds into the story-- none of the "children" know what is going on, & frankly, the more godlike elementals don't either. Elementals. Priest using a turn of phrase for them I find really evocative: they aren't made of their respective elements, but they are made from them. Cunning. There is a poison thing going on-- I don't know if it is to represent the works of man as being Othered from the natural order, or what. I half suspect that Cherie Priest was privvy to the old Immortal: The Invisible War RPG.
There are gorgeous moments, but I think the first scene with the jewelry smith will stick in my head the most. You immediately get the sense that he's more than it seems; he takes someone into his forge & just glories in the heat, in the fires & flickering light, in his club foot. He goes on & on about arsenic seeping into metalworker's flesh throughout history, turning them lame. He really comes across, in his brief cameo appearance. There are others-- the insurance agent trapped in the cult's church also springs to my thoughts.