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What is Song of Carcosa?

An occult thief takes on a sinister society threatening to tear the fabric of this world apart, in this daring noir-thriller from the bestselling world of Arkham Horror.

Countess Alessandra Zorzi, reformed thief and acquirer of occult artifacts, faces her greatest challenge yet as she searches for an elusive artist in possession of the powerful Zanthu Tablet; the only thing that can stop the strange psychic malaise afflicting Alessandra’s assistant, Pepper.

The countess’s quest takes her to the crooked heart of Venice, where an eerie organization is planning a grand performance that will engulf the city in chaos. As Pepper slips into an inescapable alien world, Alessandra must defeat powerful forces to save her friend. One wrong move could bring the curtain down on them all.

Review

SONG OF CARCOSA is the third of the Countess Zorzi series by Josh Reynolds. I’m a huge fan of these books and their Catwoman-esque protagonist. The Countess is a multi-dimensional protagonist who straddles the line between the upper class of the 1920s as well as the increasing social tensions of the working class. She’s an ex-con woman and cat burglar but has made her fortune through multiple generations of her family being very good at both. It makes a fascinating sort of character to explore the Cthulhu Mythos through and I have no doubt she’d be one of the rare survivors of Masks of Nyarlathotep or Horror on the Orient Express.

This book has the Countess ally herself with questionable company in the Red Coterie. A group of sorcerers and aristocrats that may not be as evil as the Silver Twilight Lodge but are absolutely not to be trusted. This takes her and her companion, butch cab driver and thief-in-training Pepper Kelly, back to her hometown of Venice. While I prefer stories set in Arkham Horror’s titular city, I appreciate the international nature of the Countess Zorzi books. We get a romanticized view of the floating city at this point in time that involves lots of secrets, intrigue, Old World aristocrats, and the rising tide of fascism.

Song of Carcosa, as the name implies, is about Hastur. The most famous Great Old One not invented by H.P. Lovecraft but adapted from Robert W. Chambers’ King in Yellow. Once more, we have the mysterious entity connected to an adapation of a mysterious play, madness inducing writing, and artists obsessed with bringing the supernatural to the world in order to bring about its end. In this case, the artist has the semi-sympathetic motive that he thinks that summoning Hastur is the only way to short circuit a second World War.

This is a good book for Pride month. Countess Alessandra is confirmed as bisexual with a reference to a past girlfriend of hers that she broke up with because of her cousin ratting her out to their family. Pepper has always been subtextually lesbian and gets more “hints” to this as her dream self is revealed to be a warrior woman in love with the Queen of Carcosa. We also get the confirmation that both of Zorzi’s parents received “fencing lessons” from the Red Cavalier in a revelation that shocks the Countess. The 1920s isn’t a great place to be when you’re LGBTA but it’s certainly a setting that Arkham Horror acknowledges them existing.

As mentioned, the book deals with the fact that fascism is now rising in Italy and the specter of World War 2 is starting to loom over the supernatural as well as mundane forces of Europee. I think this is an interesting element and adds to the story greatly. It is an all-too-human evil and we don’t have an Andrew Doran figure to fight Nazi aligned Cthulhu cultists. I think it’s all too appropriate that everyone, sorcerer and opponent of sorcerer alike, looks down on the fascists.

In conclusion, I continue to recommend the Countess Zorzi series as an excellent example of adventure horror. They’re Indiana Jones and Lara Croft-esque expeditions except our heroine is even more of a criminal than them. I also like Pepper’s development as she continues to go from a tagalong sidekick to an increasingly interesting heroine in her own right. It also is a pretty good story for Pride Month because it’s nice to have queer characters just being awesome, though I wish they’d stop dancing around with Pepper.

Available here

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