Dark Sleeper - Jeffrey E. Barlough Reading Dark Sleeper I was reminded of The Moonstone because both authors write in a style and with a pace not often encountered in modern novels. In both instances, for me, this was initially off-putting but once I got used to it, I found myself enjoying the cadences and the obvious fun the authors took in writing. (Upon reflection, I find that this is true of Shakespeare, O'Brian, E.R. Eddison and a number of my favorite authors.)

But to return to the book: The setting is an alternate Earth where mastodons (thunder beasts) and saber-tooth tigers (saber cats) still roam the countryside. A catastrophe -- called the sundering -- has laid waste the entire planet except for a relatively small region where survivors of an English colony persist.

The "ancient university town" of Salthead is the stage where immortal Etruscan priests (lucumones), a prankster demi-god, and the quixotic mortal inhabitants act. What plot there is revolves around the efforts of Prof. Titus Tiggs and his allies to figure out why so many strange things are occurring such as errant drowned revenants, mastiffs mutating into hybrid man-beasts, and a blue flying man. The real enjoyment in reading the book is in the characters and atmosphere evoked by Barlough, from the malevolent town miser Josiah Tusk to the affable but socially inept Dr. Dampe to the uncompromising Miss Honeywood, proprietor of the Blue Pelican. In fact, the denoument is anticlimactic: The machinations of the "bad guys" are forestalled in a couple of paragraphs and the threat to Salthead averted.

Another point in the novel's favor is that it's completely self-contained. The second book in the series, The House in the High Wood is an entirely new story with an entirely new cast of characters.

In the end, I can only say that I enjoyed reading this novel and would recommend it.