The Rust Maidens

The Rust Maidens

Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. B...

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Title:The Rust Maidens
Author:Gwendolyn Kiste
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Rust Maidens Reviews

  • Emily

    "You can't stop the girls from becoming what they became."

    The Rust Maidens is my third Gwendolyn Kiste book this year, and she has crushed it again. I love everything I've read by her, and The Rust Maidens is going to be a must-read for fans when it's released in November.

    Gwendolyn writes in a way that makes me feel understood, and I can't say that about very many people. There are so many authors I love & enjoy, but she's one of the few who can really make me reflect on my own

    "You can't stop the girls from becoming what they became."

    The Rust Maidens is my third Gwendolyn Kiste book this year, and she has crushed it again. I love everything I've read by her, and The Rust Maidens is going to be a must-read for fans when it's released in November.

    Gwendolyn writes in a way that makes me feel understood, and I can't say that about very many people. There are so many authors I love & enjoy, but she's one of the few who can really make me reflect on my own life with her stories. I think that The Rust Maidens captures young ennui and female friendships so well, and so many memories were brought up while I was reading this. On top of enjoying these aspects, it's also set against a grim backdrop with an unsettling storyline, and I loved everything about it. Cleveland plays a large role in the story, and this book reminded me of the things I liked about studying American fiction.

    If you've read Gwendolyn Kiste's And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, The Rust Maidens sort of felt like an expansion of her story The Tower Princesses. It has similar themes, but it goes much deeper than the short story was able to.

    I found the characters in this book to be likeable, and Phoebe was a relatable main character. She's honest, bold, flawed, and truly fights for what she thinks is right. She values friendship, and she's truly human in this book - she does both good and bad things. I would definitely read another book about Phoebe if one ever existed.

    I think there will be a lot of things in this book for women to relate to, and set with an ominous backdrop, which makes it even better. I'm not going to go into everything for the sake of avoiding spoilers, but I felt comforted by the fact that some of my personal worries about life were addressed in this book. I'm pretty sure I also said this about And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, but in all honesty, this book made me feel a little less alone. It's just nice to know that, somewhere, people understand you & also enjoy creepy things.

    I can't wait to see what else Gwendolyn Kiste comes up with. The Rust Maidens will be out on 11/16, and I highly recommend picking it up!

  • Tracy Robinson

    “There’s an echo in this house where my childhood used to be.” Just -how freaking perfect is that?!?

    Kiste takes us to Cleveland, OH in the 1980s, to a small town that is wrapped intertwined with the success and the decline of the local steel mill. And as the mill declines and the town suffers, the girls do too. An Ohio girl my whole life - I admit that had a part in drawing me to pick up this book.

    We meet Phoebe, someone I recognize as an old childhood friend with pieces of myself

    “There’s an echo in this house where my childhood used to be.” Just -how freaking perfect is that?!?

    Kiste takes us to Cleveland, OH in the 1980s, to a small town that is wrapped intertwined with the success and the decline of the local steel mill. And as the mill declines and the town suffers, the girls do too. An Ohio girl my whole life - I admit that had a part in drawing me to pick up this book.

    We meet Phoebe, someone I recognize as an old childhood friend with pieces of myself shining through in her character. I’ve read other reviews (see Emily’s and Mindi’s) that mention this as well, and I think that speaks to the author’s ability to take something that seems very personal and open it wide for so many others to relate to. That’s talent and believability all in one.

    At times, the book seems allegorical in that it relates to real life horrors that are so prevalent in today’s society. Kiste handles allegory and analogy so well; it’s not heavy handed or just surface-level. She artfully toes the line to create a world and a story that is beautiful and horrific at the same time.

    The question of “what is happening to the girls in Denton Street” is central to the story; moreover, it is surrounded by a devastatingly gorgeous coming-of-age tale. Kiste is aces with description, character-world building, and, for lack of the right words, time manipulation. We go back and forth from past to present; it is so seamlessly done that I had zero trouble following along. It was just the natural progression of things. Does it make sense if I say she writes like I think? 🤔

    This was my first book by Kiste and I now must read ALL the books she has released and will release. This releases on 11/16 and I highly recommend picking it up. Absolutely love this book.

  • Mindi

    There's something about Kiste's writing that just speaks to me. Her stories feel so personal and so intimate. It's almost as if you are reading something that you shouldn't because it feels so personal, and yet you need to, because what Kiste is writing is beautiful and profound. It's been a really long time since I have related to a protagonist in a book as much as I feel like I relate to Phoebe Shaw in The Rust Maidens. Every word she says, every action she takes feels exactly like what I woul

    There's something about Kiste's writing that just speaks to me. Her stories feel so personal and so intimate. It's almost as if you are reading something that you shouldn't because it feels so personal, and yet you need to, because what Kiste is writing is beautiful and profound. It's been a really long time since I have related to a protagonist in a book as much as I feel like I relate to Phoebe Shaw in The Rust Maidens. Every word she says, every action she takes feels exactly like what I would have wanted to do in her situation. Phoebe is smart, and outspoken, and brash, and I absolutely love her.

    Set in Cleveland during the summer of 1980, Phoebe Shaw and her cousin and best friend Jacqueline have just graduated from high school. The girls live on Denton Street, in a community of tight knit neighbors who hold block parties for special events, and neighborhood meetings for any type of crisis. Most of the men work at a steel mill that's on the decline, and the neighborhood is worried about the possibility of an upcoming strike or even layoffs. The city and the houses on Denton street are slowly deteriorating, but no one really wants to acknowledge it. Not until the Rust Maidens begin to transform and turn the neighborhood into chaos.

    Phoebe had dreams for her and Jacqueline before that summer, but once the Rust Maidens turn her world upside down, all she can think about is fighting for them, even when their own parents start to turn their backs. Everyone on Denton Street is frightened of the girls and the radical changes that transform their bodies. I cold feel Phoebe's anguish and frustration on every page, and I understood her heartbreak and desperation to stay in touch with her best friend and to try to help her long after everyone else has given up. This is a story about loss and decline. About a city on the brink of change, and how that change will effect everyone who knows the Rust Maidens. It's a story about fear of the unknown, and the eventual acceptance of what we can never understand. It's a heartbreaking story that grabbed me on the first page, and still hasn't let go. I'll be thinking about Phoebe and the Rust Maidens for long time.

  • Glenn Rolfe

    Gwendolyn Kiste isn’t new to the horror scene, but she is new to me. I’d been hearing about this book that was coming out soon, about this writer and how this was her first novel. Kiste has collections and a novella out there (which I will be hunting down), but this –THE RUST MAIDENS-is her first full-length novel. I managed to get a hold of a pre-release copy, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

    Kiste’s novel is not just a good story (It’s a great story), it’s a statement to the

    Gwendolyn Kiste isn’t new to the horror scene, but she is new to me. I’d been hearing about this book that was coming out soon, about this writer and how this was her first novel. Kiste has collections and a novella out there (which I will be hunting down), but this –THE RUST MAIDENS-is her first full-length novel. I managed to get a hold of a pre-release copy, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

    Kiste’s novel is not just a good story (It’s a great story), it’s a statement to the literary world: Kiste is here and now, one of the best young writers in the fiction world. I can't understand for the life of me how THE RUST MAIDENS isn’t with one of the big publishers. This book is fantastic.

    The story centers around a young woman named, Phoebe, and five of the girls from her graduating class. When the girls, including Phoebe’s cousin and best friend, Jacqueline, begin to change amidst the strike at the mill, and the mothers of the block’s disparate clutch on perceptions, the street, the town, and those families involved are turned upside down. What exactly is happening to these girls? Why would they do this now of all times? When will it all return to normal?

    “The flame of the mill burned bright overhead, but its warmth might as well have been a thousand miles away.”

    Phoebe finds herself in a battle against loneliness, and an uncertain future. She should be riding out of town with her best friend ,ready for college and a life outside of Cleveland, but instead, she winds up on a quest for answers she may never receive in a place that just wishes she would leave things be.

    “I’m a woman with half a century of life experience, who still can’t do a convincing impression of a human being.”

    It does feature Phoebe now, decades later returning to the town and problems she eventually runs away from. But most of the story is of that summer of 1980.

    Kiste does a wonderful job ingraining us through Phoebe to this place in time, this dying city in 1980. You feel the desperation. The need to get out. To get out before the dead end town claims you next. You feel the squeeze of lean and mean times as her father’s job at the mill is in jeopardy. You feel the fear of being stuck in a place, doomed to give away the world you received in a never ending cycle, and how even though you know this, there’s still no way to change it. The same way Phoebe knows, the girls have a fate that she cannot stand in the way of no matter how hard she tries.

    Still, she tries. She refuses to accept that all hope is gone. And Kiste transfers that hope to the reader.

    I took my time reading this book because I wanted to stay there and hang with these characters, to take Phoebe’s hand and stand with her against her world. And that’s the best compliment I can offer to the author. I loved this book.

    Another thing I loved was the soundtrack. Kiste’s use of a few select artists does wonders in pulling the reader deeper into the experience. You get Tom Petty’s jangly guitars lifting you up and giving you just enough hope that things will be all right. You get The Carpenter’s fraudulent, soothing lullabies that everything is normal, and then you get the all too real, working class it is what it is-our lot in life- of Bob Seger. On the east Coast, we tend to tune into Springsteen for this, but Kiste being from Ohio, uses the Mid-West equivalent and it fits perfectly. Confession time: I went to bed a number of nights after reading a few chapters listening to Bob Seger’s Stranger in Town record.

    Not an outright horror novel, but THE RUST MAIDENS is a book I will not soon forget.

    I give THE RUST MAIDENS 5 stars! Easily the best first novel I’ve read in a long time.

  • Kimberly

    is the first that I have read by author Gwendolyn Kiste. When I found out that this was her debut novel, I was honestly shocked. During the transition from short stories to a

    full-length book, I would expect at least a few things to be "less than perfect".

    In my opinion, this is a

    five-star novel, from beginning to end.

    Phoebe Shaw is returning to her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for the firs/>

    is the first that I have read by author Gwendolyn Kiste. When I found out that this was her debut novel, I was honestly shocked. During the transition from short stories to a

    full-length book, I would expect at least a few things to be "less than perfect".

    In my opinion, this is a

    five-star novel, from beginning to end.

    Phoebe Shaw is returning to her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for the first time since she left 28 years ago. The novel then alternates between events that happened in 1980--namely, the Rust Maidens, which were the catalyst for all that Phoebe had done since--and the current time frame. These two sections combine beautifully to showcase the past, and Phoebe's attempts at

    those changes even now, in the present.

    I really went into this one blindly--without any pre-conceived notions--as I hadn't read any specifics on what the story was about. This could be partially why I was so overwhelmed by the sheer beauty and honesty presented here. The other part is simply because, Gwendolyn Kiste really

    that good.

    When changes start manifesting in some of the girls on Denton street, this is only one of the many things that the author is conveying. These changes are symbolic, as well as physical. They showcase in a sense, the dynamics of being a girl in 1980, and what their expected "place" was. In a local sense, it shows their role in their own hometown, and in a broader sense, the reader can see the similarities and parallels drawn between the Rust Maidens and the changes overcoming Cleveland.

    This novel has the reader going through a large array of emotions. You have the great love that Phoebe has for her cousin--and "partner in crime"--Jacqueline. There's frustration in living in a town where their way of life is inevitably coming to an end. The biggest event by far though, is the emergence of what would then be called

    .

    The characterization here is just as solid as the environment--perhaps even more so. Not only is Phoebe presented so completely, but also her family, government officials, the townspeople, and the five girls . . .

    Kiste gives her readers every thought and reasoning they could possibly need in order to understand that for some, there was no choice--no hope--in what their futures might hold.

    In this society, especially for the women, there was a slim chance of ever becoming more than what your own mother was. Only those with enough conviction and courage to stand out, had the odds of a different sort of life in their favor.

    Overall, I was overwhelmed by the depth, style, and complexity of ideas presented in this novel. Of course, I bought this book because I had been hearing many good things about its author, Gwendolyn Kiste, and wanted to see for myself if they were well-founded.

    The answer to that was clear as I consumed

    in two or three sittings at most--wanting to know more, yet simultaneously never wanting the words to come to an end.

    In my opinion, Kiste is one of the best new authors I've come across lately. Her writing is simply beautiful--at times almost poetic, even when the subject matter is less than. She has the ability to take the reader out of their own reality and--for a time--transport them into one she's created. For myself, this feeling comes back still whenever I think about this book.

    Highest recommendation!

  • Bark

    After hearing about this book from several book pushing friends, I had a loud niggling feeling that I was going to enjoy this story from the very beginning but I wasn’t prepared for just how much I was going to LOVE it because I am such a grumpy, jaded reader most of the time.

    The Rust Maidens is a look at a town falling to ruin and the people hanging on for dear life because they have no other choice. There’s an overall fe

    After hearing about this book from several book pushing friends, I had a loud niggling feeling that I was going to enjoy this story from the very beginning but I wasn’t prepared for just how much I was going to LOVE it because I am such a grumpy, jaded reader most of the time.

    The Rust Maidens is a look at a town falling to ruin and the people hanging on for dear life because they have no other choice. There’s an overall feeling of inertia, decay and depression as folks attempt to go about their lives as if nothing terrifying were happening to their town, to their lives, to their daughters . . .

    Phoebe returns to the childhood home she left 28 years earlier to help move her dad into a nursing home. The return triggers memories of the past and the terrifying occurrences that forever after left an enormous blight on the town. When Phoebe was a teen five girls, one of them her best friend, began to suffer from a strange affliction. The affliction starts to change them physically and earns them the moniker “The Rust Maidens” and it appears the affliction has returned to strike again. The body horror is real and it is horrifying and that’s all I’m saying about it.

    Once I started The Rust Maidens, I had a difficult time putting it down to live my life because I needed to know what the heck was happening to these girls. There aren’t a lot of stories that manage to hook me the way this one this did. The writing is intimate and beautifully disturbing. I’m a huge fan of body horror when done for more than gross-out effect (well, ok, I do like those too if they look like Jeff Goldblum in THE FLY) but this story gets it all right. There’s just something about losing control of your entire self and transforming that terrifies and calls to me to read more . . .

    I thought Phoebe was a terrific character and a faithful friend who feels all of her attempts to help only succeed in making matters worse and she shoulders far too much guilt. She’s a tough girl, a troublemaker and her return shakes up the lethargy that continues to plague the town.

    There is a dark beauty in the decay that permeates this story and I think anyone looking for a unique horror story as well as a beautifully crafted heroine will love it too.

  • Lindsay

    Phoebe Shaw has returned to Denton Street, Cleveland, decades after she left after the events of the summer of 1980 and the transformation of the Rust Maidens. As she slowly reconnects with her family and the place she left behind, the events of that summer come to the forefront. In 1980 Phoebe was an angry young woman, priming herself to leave the decaying city and its suffocating people, when her best friend and four other girls began a disturbing transformation, literally becoming creatures o

    Phoebe Shaw has returned to Denton Street, Cleveland, decades after she left after the events of the summer of 1980 and the transformation of the Rust Maidens. As she slowly reconnects with her family and the place she left behind, the events of that summer come to the forefront. In 1980 Phoebe was an angry young woman, priming herself to leave the decaying city and its suffocating people, when her best friend and four other girls began a disturbing transformation, literally becoming creatures of rust and decay. The book builds to the revelation of what happens to the girls and how Phoebe deals with it, while Phoebe in the present still struggles to come to terms with it.

    Horror, but also a dark literary fantasy. I thought it was brilliant with a deeply engaging narrator who's understandably angry, depressed and perhaps guilty and grieving. The plight of the Rust Maidens themselves has elements of body horror, but in some ways their transformation is no less horrific than the fates that they were facing in the decaying rust belt anyway, and certainly not as horrifying as the worst of human nature that is brought out in the people around them who don't understand what's going on.

    Packed with ideas and emotion for its relatively short length and I strongly recommend it.

  • Latasha

    This came highly recommended from the ladies of horror fiction.com, so I read it! This is the first thing I've read by Gwendolyn Kiste. Wow! She can write. The language and scenery of this book is beautiful.its sad and bleak but it has a certain beauty to it. I liked the characters and the Maidens as well. The story flowed along nicely. I would certainly read more from this author.

  • Lee Anderson drunkonbookz

    Such a beautiful tale set in Cleveland, Ohio back in the 80's. Denton street is a street where the men are all factory workers, the women are stay at home mothers and most of the kids we hear about in the story are just graduating high school.

    Phoebe Shaw is not only the narrator but she emotionally carries this book. This story could so easily have been turned into something truly horrific but even though the rust maidens show little emotion, Phoebe is almost like their outlet, remin

    Such a beautiful tale set in Cleveland, Ohio back in the 80's. Denton street is a street where the men are all factory workers, the women are stay at home mothers and most of the kids we hear about in the story are just graduating high school.

    Phoebe Shaw is not only the narrator but she emotionally carries this book. This story could so easily have been turned into something truly horrific but even though the rust maidens show little emotion, Phoebe is almost like their outlet, reminding us of shattered families and destroyed dreams.

    So why is it the weaker girls that seem to be swallowed up by this unknown rust? It is quite interesting if you look not only at the girls but at their overbearing parents.

    Then there is poor Phoebe with more strength than the entire street and she just wants to save her friend. But can you save someone that doesn't want to be saved?

  • Justine

    A compelling piece of literary horror that examines the theme of decay in its various forms.

    The Rust Maidens themselves personify decay as their bodies literally change. The surrounding neighbourhood-a steel based economy in 1980 Cleveland-similarly decays from the larger scale (economic collapse) to the smaller (family collapse).

    An uncomfortable read, but powerful and difficult to look away from; basically just what I look for in horror.

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