Review: “Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle” by Elizabeth Bear

4 of 5 stars.

This steampunk western reads like a favorite episode of Whedon’s Firefly. In Seattle, under the strong hand of brothel proprietor Madam Damnable, Hotel Mon Cherie bustles with colorful characters, most of whom ply the world’s oldest trade.

Karen, the second youngest working girl there, narrates as Crispin mans the door, Effie the shotgun, and Lizzie the medical supplies. Everyone has a role to play in this smooth operation:

. . . and the thing about Miss Francina is that Miss Francina’s got a pecker under her dress. But that ain’t nothing but God’s rude joke. She’s one of us girls every way else, and handy for a bouncer.

The whorehouses along the docks are a different can of worms. The men pimping the immigrant girls there do it by fist and threat. When former dockgirl and emancipator Merry Lee is shot, newly emancipated and heavily bruised Priya carries Merry uptown to Hotel Mon Cherie for refuge and medical aid. Shrewish pimp Peter Brantle and three of his cronies burst in demanding payback for the loss of Priya . . .

This vignette is highly recommended. The colorful ideolect of the Hotel’s girls is most enjoyable. Bear’s ear for accent and speech patterns impresses.

“Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Dead Man’s Hand, ed. John Joseph Adams (Titan Books). I’ve previously reviewed Bear’s: “The Hand is Quicker–“ and “Swell” which are both enjoyable.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


10 responses to “Review: “Madam Damnable’s Sewing Circle” by Elizabeth Bear

        • Is it good? Get off my internet until you are civilized in the way of space westerns. There are only eleven or twelve episodes so you’ve no excuse. And there’s the movie–Serenity. But it comes after. It’s a Joss Whedon series [Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse], but probably the best of the lot.

          Liked by 1 person

          • You will be forgiven. I’m still 3 seasons behind on Supernatural but reading your posts everyday, so, SPOILED ALERT. Now that Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Orphan Black are all currently on hiatus, I should make an effort to catch up. BTW, I recommend all 3 of those shows if you are not currently a follower. The lead actress in Orphan Black will blow your mind w/i a few episodes.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Haha, sorry 🙂 I really need to tag for spoilers, I’ve ruined season 10 for at least four people that I know of.
            Yeah, I’ve heard great things about The Walking Dead and Orphan Black- as for GoT, I’ve read the first five books but not seen the series yet.
            I’ve been meaning to watch Orphan Black actually.
            Do you watch Hannibal? It’s really good.


          • I do not watch Hannibal. Admittedly, I’m not looking for another show at this time. Avoiding it, really. Don’t bother tagging spoilers for my sake–I’ll ignore them. But Charlie?! Why?!?! lol

            Liked by 1 person

          • I know! I think it was a brave move- they knew how the fandom’d react, yet went ahead anyway- but still. Chaaaaaarlie. All her episodes were so good, though- at least we’ve got those.

            Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Short Story Review: “Cryptic Coloration” by Elizabeth Bear | Jaffalogue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s