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. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why—except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens—and her own unwitting role in the transformations—before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.

The Rust Maidens Details

TitleThe Rust Maidens
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 16th, 2018
PublisherTrepidatio Publishing
ISBN-139781947654440
Rating
GenreHorror, Fantasy, Fiction

The Rust Maidens Review

  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    "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 he "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!
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  • Glenn Rolfe
    January 1, 1970
    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 wor 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.
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  • Mindi
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Tracy Robinson
    January 1, 1970
    “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 thr “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.
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  • Suz Jay
    January 1, 1970
    I was fortunate to obtain an advance reader copy (ARC) of this novel. As the daughter of a steel worker, I remember the effects of the strikes and layoffs. The heyday and downfall of the steel Industry. The Christmas parties for the children with Santa and movies, where every kid received a fancy toy and all the candy they could stuff inside their gullets, along with the tense times when the paychecks stopped and hopelessness reigned. Kiste captures the desolation of the steel mill downfall, mak I was fortunate to obtain an advance reader copy (ARC) of this novel. As the daughter of a steel worker, I remember the effects of the strikes and layoffs. The heyday and downfall of the steel Industry. The Christmas parties for the children with Santa and movies, where every kid received a fancy toy and all the candy they could stuff inside their gullets, along with the tense times when the paychecks stopped and hopelessness reigned. Kiste captures the desolation of the steel mill downfall, making Cleveland a downtrodden character with a melancholy heart. The residents drink to dull their pain and drown their sorrows. Kiste’s haunting beautiful prose creates a soundtrack stuffed with sadness. Overcome with loss, Phoebe abandoned her dreams and ran away. Decades later, she returns to her childhood home in Cleveland, determined to repress the memories of the rust maidens, five of her peers who transformed from girls into tragic monsters in the early 1980’s. Unlike Medusa, the girls didn’t have the power to turn people into stone, rather they served as a reflection of the community. Rusting. Broken. Sharp. Poisoned. Mutated. Phoebe must face her past or resign another young girl to the fate of her five friends. Phoebe is a fantastic character. She’s not afraid to speak her mind or to get her hands dirty. She’s a heroine willing to go to battle like a modern day Joan of Arc to protect the rust maidens, but who somehow loses herself mid-fight. She’s not tethered to the pyre, but rather flames of regret and shame burn inside her tattered heart.Kiste’s first novel, which toggles between the past and present seamlessly, is a tour de force, displaying her brilliant storytelling.
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  • Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)
    January 1, 1970
    There are books you read and then there are books you feel—ones that get under your skin and become a part of who you are. Gwendolyn Kiste is a writer like that, one who creates stories that live and breathe, and when they shift into strange darkness, you go with them willingly, almost not realizing you’re leaving reality behind. The Rust Maidens is set against the backdrop of a small Cleveland neighborhood in the 80s and the slow but inevitable decay of the factories that are the lifeblood for There are books you read and then there are books you feel—ones that get under your skin and become a part of who you are. Gwendolyn Kiste is a writer like that, one who creates stories that live and breathe, and when they shift into strange darkness, you go with them willingly, almost not realizing you’re leaving reality behind. The Rust Maidens is set against the backdrop of a small Cleveland neighborhood in the 80s and the slow but inevitable decay of the factories that are the lifeblood for the families who live there. Told through the lens of the girl who saw it all and never recovered, this is the story of five girls who began to rust and inexplicably transform into something not entirely human.Young girls, just graduating from high school, should have their entire future ahead of them, ready to face the world head-on and seize their dreams. That isn’t really the way it works for the girls from this town, a town where everyone knows everything about you and there isn’t a whole lot of room to breathe without someone gossiping about it. This is the kind of town you get stuck in, marry a mill worker, have kids young, and become your parents. These girls don’t really have a chance, don’t really own their futures—or their bodies. And what’s the point, anyway, when the town is dying around them? So their bodies take things into their own hands, as it were.So what is The Rust Maidens about? To me, it’s about choice. It’s about coming of age as a girl and facing every obstacle—no matter how difficult, horrific, or even close to home—to remain true to yourself.The weaving of supernatural elements is effortless throughout and fuses all the elements of the plot, which is important to me; this isn’t craziness happening for no reason. Instead there is a deeper meaning to every strand of the story. And it will drag you under its spell.Kiste also has a chilling and entrancing style: extremely atmospheric and unsettling yet with a strange compelling beauty that constantly pulls you in. I loved finding her unique voice when I read her collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and this novel only develops on her strengths.Kiste is a welcome voice on the horror shelves, the soft beauty of her words mesmerizing, beckoning you to come closer and see, but when you get too close, she smiles and opens wide—and the darkness swallows you whole.I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
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  • S.J. Budd
    January 1, 1970
    The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste is an amazing book and you're all in for a treat. I was very excited to have been given an ARC as this is an author who's work I've been avidly following. Initialy she was mostly a short story writer, gracing the pages of Black Static, Lamplight, Interzone, Shimmer, Nightmare and a whole load more. Since then she turned her hand to writing a critically acclaimed novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row which was released last year.And 2018 heralds her first novel - The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste is an amazing book and you're all in for a treat. I was very excited to have been given an ARC as this is an author who's work I've been avidly following. Initialy she was mostly a short story writer, gracing the pages of Black Static, Lamplight, Interzone, Shimmer, Nightmare and a whole load more. Since then she turned her hand to writing a critically acclaimed novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row which was released last year.And 2018 heralds her first novel - The Rust Maidens.The Rust Maidens is set in Ohio during the 80's the title is a reference to what became known as the Rust Belt when industry rapidly declined leaving many families out of work. Rust Maidens follows the tale of the inhabitants of Denton street battling to survive the economic downturn. Things get a whole load worse for them, but it's not just the men who suffer but the women too, particularly the Rust Maidens made to suffer the actions of man.Told mostly in flashback through Phoebe Shaw who returns reluctantly to her old home after 28 years to find her scars have not healed as well and she would have hoped. Ms Kiste has created a beautifully haunting landscape which also manages to be creepy and threatening at the same time. I too grew up in a small town and she has brilliantly captured the claustrophobic living conditions where the past and present taunt you every day.Cleveland, Ohio is a town Phoebe is desperate to escape once she's graduated from High School, she plans to run into the sunset with her beloved cousin Jacqueline but her plans are scuppered when four local girls fall prey to a mysterious illness that no one can explain.This is a coming of age story like no other, at first the girls are left to fend for themselves, even their nearest and dearest are unwilling to help them they would rather forget they ever existed. However Phoebe won't turn a blind eye and goes to battle like Joan of Arc.I found Phoebe a really interesting character, the final girl who gets to tell her story in her own words. What I like about Phoebe is that she possesses none of the usual final girl traits that allow them to survive. She's not a virginal innocent young girl, she does what she wants, never bites her tongue and not afraid to get into a fight. And she certainly doesn't allow herself to fall in love with the bad guy.I really enjoyed this book. I could discuss it for hours but I don't like adding spoilers into my review and ruin the story for those of you who have yet to read it. Let's just say it's a book you can quite happily read over and over again.It's a little off topic but this book reminds me of watching a history programme where a female historian was lamenting the fact that so many important women have vanished from history, and this book really reflects that. This is what Phoebe fights for, to have them remembered.
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  • Becky Spratford
    January 1, 1970
    On the blog and in my Reader's Shelf Column in the 10/1/18 issue of Library Journal: http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/20...Three Words That Describe This Book: unsettlingly beautiful, two time frames, atmospheric From haunted houses to an entire town haunted by a terrifying event in its past we have THE RUST MAIDENS by Bram Stoker Award nominated short story writer, Gwendolyn Kiste. It’s 1980 and Cleveland is a town in serious decline. The plants and mills are all closing and jobs are disappea On the blog and in my Reader's Shelf Column in the 10/1/18 issue of Library Journal: http://raforallhorror.blogspot.com/20...Three Words That Describe This Book: unsettlingly beautiful, two time frames, atmospheric From haunted houses to an entire town haunted by a terrifying event in its past we have THE RUST MAIDENS by Bram Stoker Award nominated short story writer, Gwendolyn Kiste. It’s 1980 and Cleveland is a town in serious decline. The plants and mills are all closing and jobs are disappearing. The setting is bleak and uneasy on its own accord, but then, in one neighborhood, young girls start transforming into grotesque creatures, right before everyone’s eyes. Their transformation becomes a tourist stop with people flocking to see The Rust Maidens, but why are they changing and what horror does this portend. Told through the eyes of Phoebe in two timelines, 1980 and the present, as she tries to understand the mystery and come to terms with her own part in the frightening events, this is a tale dripping with dread and atmosphere, told with an unsettlingly beauty, and portraying a realism that contradicts its obvious supernatural plot.
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  • Nick Cato
    January 1, 1970
    A weird, atmospheric, emotional dark fantasy that hits you in the gut. Full review 10/22/18 at thehorrorfictionreview.blogspot.com.
  • Jan Stinchcomb
    January 1, 1970
    Typical Gwendolyn Kiste: heartfelt, lyrical horror, this time set in a small town in Ohio in an atmosphere of social and economic decline. The dark corners of female existence are explored and revealed to be more terrifying than people usually allow themselves to admit. This short novel, marked by insight and empathy, should be read and discussed by horror fans on both sides of the generational divide.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    I’m rather amazed that Kiste managed to bring in elements such as government agents, medical doctors, and tourists without ruining the bleak, inexorable horror of the tale. It’s quite impressive. The prose is soaked with the feel of the run-down industrial neighborhood, the foundering steel mill, the desperate workers, the panel of wives and mothers, the moments when the plight of the Rust Maidens turns into anger and rage and a feeling that maybe it’s something they’re just doing to get attenti I’m rather amazed that Kiste managed to bring in elements such as government agents, medical doctors, and tourists without ruining the bleak, inexorable horror of the tale. It’s quite impressive. The prose is soaked with the feel of the run-down industrial neighborhood, the foundering steel mill, the desperate workers, the panel of wives and mothers, the moments when the plight of the Rust Maidens turns into anger and rage and a feeling that maybe it’s something they’re just doing to get attention. The pace is slow and lingering, but that didn’t discourage me–there was quite enough to fascinate me and hold my attention.It might have been nice to have a quick note starting off each chapter to delineate which time line it takes place in just for a quicker settling-in, but that’s a minor quibble.This is a really unusual read. It definitely isn’t for a time when you want something action-filled, but if you want atmospheric, industrial horror, it’s fantastic!Original review posted on my blog: http://www.errantdreams.com/2018/11/r...
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  • Eddie Generous
    January 1, 1970
    Unnerving MagazineListen to my interview with the author: https://www.unnervingmagazine.com/sin...The imagery was fun and atmospheric. Heavy on emotion over activity in the way voice-over works in film. Fun payoff in the finale and a super fun sickness.
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  • Steve Wynne
    January 1, 1970
    I read both of Gwendolyn Kiste's other books earlier this year. Each blew me completely away, especially her collection, "And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe". I burned through "The Rust Maidens" in three sittings, and I can say that Kiste is now easily in my top three favorite writers. This book left me feeling sad when I was five pages from the end, because I didn't want it to be over. When I did finish it, I couldn't bring myself to start a new book right away because it felt wrong to mo I read both of Gwendolyn Kiste's other books earlier this year. Each blew me completely away, especially her collection, "And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe". I burned through "The Rust Maidens" in three sittings, and I can say that Kiste is now easily in my top three favorite writers. This book left me feeling sad when I was five pages from the end, because I didn't want it to be over. When I did finish it, I couldn't bring myself to start a new book right away because it felt wrong to move on so quickly. Kiste has the ability to portray a certain Rust Belt isolation and melancholy that just speaks to me so well. I can't say enough kind things, nor can I say a single bad thing about this book.
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