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Ian Weir & Stacy Carlson: Historical Fiction Reading
Ian Weir's Will Starling is set in London, 1816. The Napoleonic War is over, Romanticism is at its high tide, and the great city is charged with the thrill of scientific discovery and Regency abandon. The nineteen-year-old foundling Will Starling returns from the Continent, having spent five years assisting military surgeon Alec Comrie, and now is helping Comrie build a civilian practice in London's rough Cripplegate area. This means entering into an uneasy alliance with the Doomsday Men: grave robbers who supply surgeons with cadavers for dissection. There are wild rumors about Dionysus Atherton, an old university friend of Comrie's and the brightest of London's emerging surgical stars, whispers of experiments on corpses not quite dead, in a bid to unlock the mystery of death itself. Will works obsessively to ferret out the truth; the investigation twists and turns through brothels and charnel houses and the mansions of Mayfair.
Stacy Carlson's Among the Wonderful is set in 1842. Phineas T. Barnum is a young man, freshly arrived in New York and still unknown to the world. With uncanny confidence and impeccable timing, he transforms a dusty natural history museum into a great ark for public imagination. In this kaleidoscopic setting, the stories of two compelling characters are brought to life. Emile Guillaudeu is the museum's grumpy taxidermist, who is horrified by the chaotic change Barnum brings to his beloved institution. Ana Swift is a professional giantess plagued by chronic pain and jaded by a world of gawkers. This novel weaves a world where upper Manhattan is still untrammeled wilderness, the Five Points is at the height of its bloody glory, and within the walls of Barnum's museum, ancient tribal feuds play out in the midst of an unlikely community of marvels.