MAYHEM, written by author Michael Molisani, follows the exploits of Margaret, aka Lady Mayhem, the lead “battlewitch” in an army fighting over the remains of post-apocalyptic America. (Is this divided nation an analogy for modern-day America?) You’d expect a battlewitch to live an action-packed life, and she did… before the novel opens. Now Margaret is ready to retire. The first half of MAYHEM focuses on Margaret’s family squabbles and twisty political intrigue. The wardrobe details in MAYHEM border on fetish; this story is as much about steampunk/smbd cosplay as it is a futuristic civil war with witches as weapons.
MAYHEM doesn’t get rolling until the second half, when family feuds ignite—literally—and Margaret must transform herself while preparing for a nation-shaping battle fueled by personal revenge. In a novel filled with ancient gods and magical spells, perhaps the strangest aspect of MAYHEM is its copious sex scenes. Sex is a weapon in MAYHEM, used to dominate and control. Aside from one scene with Margaret and Townsend, her beloved war hero, the sex in MAYHEM is ugly and unromantic. Plus, Molisani uses big words when simple ones will do. Terms like “pudendum,” “humectation,” and “mucilaginous discharge” don’t make the bedroom scenes hotter.
Molisani’s at his best creating creatures rich in meaning and metaphor. The Beast is a giant golem that stands in San Francisco Bay, an amalgam of technology, industrial machines, and human souls. The Wave Organ plays a melancholy song as water flows through a city lost at sea. A nightclub singer has her eyes sewn shut and her fingers cut off to mirror the pain and sorrow of a Bellini aria. But Lady Mayhem encounters these creatures and characters only in passing. It’s frustrating, because these are the most fascinating parts of MAYHEM. Hopefully Molisani will flesh out these backstories in future volumes. Surely, Lady Mayhem has something nice to wear.
MAYHEM, a paranormal urban fantasy that features intense battles, fascinating characters, and captivating creatures, focuses more on a dysfunctional family drama—and fashion show—instead.
~Rob Errera for IndieReader