Buddy Read with Iseult Murphy: The Rust Maidens

Buddy Read with Iseult Murphy : The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste

You Can find Iseult’s Buddy Read Post: Here

Iseult Murphy reached out to me about doing a buddy read and I was thrilled to say yes. I loved the idea of diving deeper into a book and asking thought provoking questions.

I met Iseult about a year ago on the Writing Community of Twitter. We’ve been in a writing group where we discuss the craft, opinions, and provide help and support to one another.

We have also been in a book club, where we read and discuss amazing books. I love her thought process and she always has a different perspective which adds to my experience.

About Iseult

Iseult Murphy

Iseult Murphy lives on the east coast of Ireland and is owned by five dogs, two cats, and a tiny parrot. When she isn’t tending to her furry (and feathery) overlords, she is usually scribbling something horrible into the walls, and occasionally her laptop. Magic and science are usually involved too. Her short stories have been published in over two dozen venues.

Iseult is the author of Zoo of the Dead and other horrific tales. You can get her book on amazon here $3.99 for eBook and $6.00 for paperback. She also has another book. Return to Hades and Other Adventures. You can get her book on amazon here $4.00 for eBook and $10.00 for paperback.

I love her writing and have both her books on my bookshelf at home. It’s an honor to support an author like Iseult.

Book Description

Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.

It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.

As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.

Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

Ruth Anne’s Questions to Iseult

  • What is your opinion on where the author chose to start the story and the pacing of it?

When I started the book, I liked that the author introduced Phoebe nearly three decades after the main events of the story. It provided instant mystery, grabbed my interest and kept me reading to find out what happened next. For the first half of the book, the dual time line narrative really worked for me. I liked how the character development and plot information were leaked out at a steady pace. Unfortunately, the second half of the book didn’t deliver on the first half’s promise. The pace slowed to a stand still, and the withholding of certain information felt like a cheat rather than a genuine reason to delay. I also wondered at the ultimate reason for the time jump, as present day Phoebe didn’t seem to have changed over the intervening years or come to any realizations that justified her presence. .

  • Was the content of the story enough to classify the Horror genre?

I can see why this is classified as horror. There is an atmosphere of pervading despair throughout the book that compliments the physical transformations of the girls and the mental changes of the townsfolk. Everything is just a bit off, which is an element in most horror books. For my personal tastes, I would have liked the horror elements to have been emphasized more and been more visceral, more literal than the dream like metaphorical depiction of the Rust Maidens. I love body horror, and was expecting this to be a large element of the book, but the Rust Maidens didn’t seem to mind their transformation. They were too beautiful and fragile to illicit any fear response in me, and I struggled to understand why the community turned against them beyond the symbolic value of the narrative. Tl;dr: I liked the dream like quality of physical decay and failial rejection, but it never progressed beyond a metaphor to hit the horror notes I was looking for. 

  • What elements of the story i.e. Descriptions of the Rust Maidens did you find creative?

I loved the descriptions of their fingernails like glass and discarding their skin like some fantastic steampunk corset creation. My favourite element was how the Rust Maidens could move through metal, which is actually a big part of the story, now that I think of it. 

  • Did the peripheral characters add or detract from the story? Why do you think the author chose to include them?

Adrian didn’t work for me. I thought his relationship with Phoebe was inappropriate and unrealistic. I understand the desire for impotent authority, but the government men angle didn’t add anything to the book.

  • What emotions did the story present to you when reading the relationship between the characters?

Sadness, overall, at how the Rust Maidens were betrayed and neglected by their families and friends both before and after their transformation. Anger that all of Pheobe’s early promise of rebellion and intellectual interest in insects seemed to go into suspended animation for thirty years. 

Thank you, Iseult for reading this book with me and collaborating on this awesome buddy read. 🙂

Don’t forget to check out my answers to her questions.

Future Buddy Reads/Collabs

If you’d like to do a buddy read with me and share blog posts, contact me through the contact section of my site or comment down below. We can do this and pick a book. 🙂