The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste

The Rust Maidens - Gwendolyn Kiste

“Pray for the Rust Maidens

Even after all these years, those words suck the breath right out of my chest.”


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.