Friday, May 24, 2024

OYE, intense debut sapphic novel of adolescence in an immigrant family under HUGE life-stresses


The Hogarth Press
$29.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: A coming-of-age comedy. A telenovela-worthy drama. A moving family saga. All in a phone call you won’t want to hang up on…

A young woman reckons with her rowdy, unpredictable family and the revelation of their long-buried history in this wildly inventive debut.

“Yes, hi, Mari. It’s me. I’m over my tantrum and finally calling you back. But you have to promise that you won’t say anything to Mom or Abue about this, okay? They’ll set the house on fire if they find out…”

Luciana is the baby of her large Colombian American family. And despite usually being relegated to the sidelines, she now finds herself the voice of reason in the middle of their unexpected crisis. Her older sister, Mari, is away at college and reduced to a mere listening ear on the other end of their many phone calls, so when South Florida residents are ordered to evacuate before a hurricane, it’s up to Luciana to deal with her eccentric grandmother, Abue, who’s refusing to leave. But the storm isn’t the only danger. Abue, normally glamorous and full of life, is given a crushing medical diagnosis. While she’d prefer to ignore it and focus on upholding her reputation and her looks instead, the news sets Abue on her own personal journey, with Luciana reluctantly along for the ride.

When Abue moves into Luciana’s bedroom, their complicated bond only intensifies. Luciana would rather be skating or sneaking out to meet girls, but Abue’s wild demands and unpredictable antics are a welcome distraction from Luciana’s misguided mother, absent sister, and uncertain future. Forced to step into the role of caretaker, translator, and keeper of the devastating secrets that Abue begins to share, Luciana suddenly finds herself center stage, facing down adulthood—and rising to the occasion.

As Luciana chronicles the events of her upended senior year over the phone, Oye feels like the most entertaining conversation you’ve ever eavesdropped a rollicking, heartfelt, and utterly unique novel by an author as original as she is insightful.


My Review
: A funny, modern updating of the epistolary novel, with all its strengths and weaknesses intact. The biggest strength for me was Luciana's voice: Raw, unregulated, intensely immersed in a very difficult moment. I have heard criticism from readers about the "foul language" Luciana uses, to all of whom I say, "go read a religious tract if all you want is sweet, uplifting pablum." Luciana's in a car fleeing a bloody hurricane! She's trying to reach her sister! She's left her Abue (Grandma for the monoglots) the old lady's insistence!

If anyone has a reason to use Language, it's this girl; plus she's talking to her sister! Not an Authority figure. Which brings me to, who says you, the reader, get to be an authority entitled to pass judgment, anyway?

And here I am, passing judgment....

Well, hypocrisy thy name is me, I guess. I disagree with those pursey-lipped objections because I don't agree with them, anywhere, period. To me, this is a feature not a bug: Immediacy and authenticity enhancing the usual epistolary read's sense of becoming privy to another person's intimate communications to someone not you. That style is emotionally more intense, more immediate, than third-person or *shudder* the Satanic Second person narration. That becomes ever more relevant as the hurricane threat is survived and the aftermath begins.

What the story does is deeply unfamiliar and absolutely terrifying to me. It chronicles the emotional reality of a child's bearing the burdens of adulthood, of responsibility for interpreting...on every level that word has in English...the world for the nominal adults around her. I can think of nothing more frightening to read about than that imposition on someone who is also coming to terms with her sapphic love needs. The latter would be enough to stress a kid out, and it certainly has, but add on top the cultural and language interpretation demands...!

This is, to me at least, the very most unnerving of isolations. Luciana is left, by the sister she's leaving these voicemails for, to be in charge of some deeply stressful navigations of her world that I feel sad she has to be burdened with, things that by all rights a teenager should not have to be in charge of. That's conveyed very well by the updated use of the epistolary format.

There are the usual limitations, of course. The fact that this is not a conversation, a la that ur-telephone novel Nicholson Baker's Vox, means that the story is solely the one Luciana sees and feels. We get her character, but are asked to fill in the spaces where the other characters...reduced to names here...need to be. That is inherent in the format, so it does nothing wrong, just leaves more work for the reader. I found that a bit off-putting as time went by; why is Luciana pouring her heart out to Mari anyway, I kept wondering, when there's nothing coming back...and the realization of Luciana's actual, heart-rending isolation came crashing in again.

As an evocation of the absolute intensity of adolescent emotions, passions, and fears, it works. As a novel, it can feel overly dramatic and one-note. That is a risk that the epistolary format carries within itself. I liked the read, but was too overstimulated to love it, as I could never be anywhere but in medias res.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

IN TONGUES, among other things, a coming(!)-of-age story perfect for the Fire Island beach


MCD Books
$28.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: A young gay man upends the lives of a powerful art-world couple in this steamy novel of self-discovery.

It’s 2001, and twenty-four-year-old Gordon―handsome, sensitive, and eager for direction―takes a bus from Minnesota to New York City because it’s the only place for a young gay man to go. As he begins to settle into the city’s punishing rhythm, he gets a job walking rich Manhattanites’ dogs. But it isn’t until he stumbles into the West Village brownstone of two of his clients, the powerful gallery owners Phillip and Nicola, that Gordon learns how much the world has hidden from him―and what he’s capable of doing in order to get it for himself.

A lush, heart-quickening novel about family and art, sex and class, and the terror of self-discovery, Thomas Grattan’s In Tongues chronicles Gordon’s perilous pursuit of belonging from the Midwest to New York and, later, to Europe and Mexico City. As he floats further into Phillip and Nicola’s exclusive universe, and as lines blur between employee, muse, lover, and mentor, Gordon’s charm, manipulation, and growing ambition begin to escape his own control, in turn threatening to unravel the lives, and lies, of those around him.

Anchored by winsome lyricism, glinting intellect, and a main character whose yearnings and mistakes come to feel like our own, In Tongues crackles with fierce longing and pointed emotion, further confirming Grattan as a rare chronicler of young adulthood’s joys and devastations.


My Review
: I kept making dirty wordplay on this title as my review's first line. Trouble with that is nothing I can come (!) up (!) with is steamier or hornier than the book itself is.

This is NOT straight-people safe. This is not, in all honesty, a book to read at work, or on public transport, unless you're wearing very, very loosely pleated trousers. Or baiting your hook.

It's also not one-handed reading, I hasten to add. The story is very much the point of the sexual situations, not the other way around. Think of it as Ripley made for PornHub not Netflix, nor perish forbid that neutered but pretty-to-look-at theatrical film. That perhaps overplays the calculation and manipulation that Gordon commits to in achieving his goal of finding himself (between two powerful people's bodies), and discovering his true inner self(ish bastard). But make no mistake that Gordon is very much a Young Man from the Provinces who very clearly knows what he left behind he deliberately rejected. Now he needs to understand how to work his natural gifts while he's got youth and a complete absence of the will to say "no" on his side.

The reason I resonated so deep(!)ly to the story is Author Grattan's way of making it: Episodic, dreamlike, in the flow. That knocked off the meaner interpretations I leapt to about Gordon's thoughtlessness, his lack of a core concern for how his behavior might affect others. It is not yet in him (!) to be calculating. It is, in other words, a case of his being canny versus being savvy. Gordon instinctively responds to the way others see him and shows them that side. A savvy operator would, instead move to seduce those who have what he wants. Those people are often false-feeling and mistrusted, Gordon is too real in his desire to be desired to give off a warning signal, a fake vibe.

Absence of an organizing principle often gets mistaken for aimlessness. Author Grattan takes on a daunting task of presenting the story of Gordon, void of course, and needing thus to use authorial sleight of hand to keep his reader from feeling lost and unconnected the way Gordon is. That is a supremely difficult thing to do. For the most part I think his choice of sexual contexts serves admirably to ground and connect us to Gordon. There's so much pleasure in reading the elegant prose of the story, and so much about the emotional nature of those around Gordon to keep a lit-fic reader going. Particularly telling is Gordon's relations with the old guys in the story. He might not lust after them as they do him, but he desires...something, some meaningful intangible benefit to go with the tangible exchanges between them; does he get it? He doesn't know, because he doesn't know what he's looking for, The older men get what they want though likely not what they need, which is again intangible: connection. A future. Raising more than a flagging half-staff, shall we say.

This is consonant with my own life.

My half-star docked off dissatisfaction was Gordon's religious father begging for his son's withdrawn love. That's not so baldly expressed, of course, as I've done but it honestly does not ring true at all. Religious fathers with gay sons imght want to convert them to straightness but making themselves emotionally vulnerable? Nope. I don't, honestly, see that happening between most any father and son. And that joined a certain vague sense I could never coalesce around an actual idea, that Gordon was not really interested in himself enough to attract the caliber of men he does. That's as close as I can come to articulating a kind-of Forrest Gumpishness about him that did not jibe with narrative.

Lovely writing made the ending work. Lesser talent would've fumbled that one, and it was a close-run thing even so. A book I recommend to gay-male readers of literary prose.

All others, at your own risk.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

NEARLYWED, starting #PrideMonth early and with a resounding laugh


Sourcebooks Casablanca
$16.99 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: An engaged couple's compatibility is put to the test during their ill-fated early honeymoon in this smart, dazzling, and provocative summer comedy perfect for fans of People We Meet on Vacation.

5 Signs You and Your FiancĂ© Might Be Secretly Incompatible…and #3 Will Shock You!

Ray Bruno and Kip Hayes are horrible on paper. Ray is a chaotic millennial ex-clickbait-writer who's been oversharing his every thought online since he was a teenager, and Kip is a pragmatic Gen X doctor who values privacy above all else.

But somehow it all manages to work…until Ray convinces Kip to join him for an early honeymoon at a famous lux resort in Ray's coastal New England hometown, eschewing the tradition of bachelor parties and hoping to recharge before their end-of-August wedding. When a surprising encounter with another couple at the resort leads to a series of escalating mishaps and miscommunications, Ray and Kip are forced to look at their many differences in a stark new light, turning the trip into less of a vacation and more of a test: will they be able to work through their issues in time for the big day? Or is this marriage over before it begins?


My Review
: Frothy fun. Seriously, there's a lot to love about frothy fun all on its own. I'm not going to criticize anyone for looking to read a plain ol' entertainment.

This book's got the frothy on top, and then a deep well of relationship fiction keeping it up. (So to speak.) The set-up...a prenuptial getaway classic, and introduces the idea that there's something to get away from, which while it's shown as an is always really something intrinsic to the couple's couplehood.

That being, in this story, communication skills. Ray is someone who "shares" his entire life online and has used this as a substitute for communicating his deeper emotional reality. After all, he gets the positive reinforcement he needs so badly from his curated, online self's doings, so it's all good. His mom, a deeply indulgent parent who genuinely wants to support her ebullient son, encourages his extroversion without much examination. Then why does he choose older, deep-waters Kip as a partner, the savvy reader notes. Why indeed....

Kip, a buttoned-up young (forties) doctor with a certain kind of background, feels duty-bound to be the man his ancestral expectations lead him to be. The weight of Expectations is, I assume we all know by now, is untenably heavy to carry by yourself. But those expectations make Kip unwilling to ask Ray for badly needed would be All Over The Internet, and what Kip does with Ray should be PRIVATE. (Read: Shame! Shame! Shame!) Kip is, though, loyal to his love, and his love is Ray. How far can Ray push his uncommunicative love before he suddenly, finally sees Ray's essential emptiness?

The stage is set.

What happens between these oddly assorted men at the glitzy resort (a setting that in one stroke assures the reader that shiny, pretty surfaces will be shattered yet the basic architecture will survive) is a very effective communication manual. I do not intend a knock or insult with this! The effectiveness of a story always depends on its logic. The logic of working through communication issues is universally compelling. No one I've ever known has not felt the need to communicate more effectively. These men, one ruled by fear of rejection, the other by shame, discover in their love the support each needs to confront their unique fear.

Because it's the same issue. At heart, "do you love me enough to be with me when I'm just myself?" is the one question every spouse must answer. The good news is, unlike a self-help book or a workbook, reading a novel where each of these two very relatable men answer this question with a resounding "yes, you silly oaf, I always HAVE!" is fun, not a chore. There's a moment in the story where an aperçu is delivered that I think should be part of anyone who's so much as considering the commitment's mental furniture: "The reality of a marriage is all the days that come after." The biggest success of this story is that I believed Ray in all his scattered glory really wanted Kip in all his weighty seriousness to know each of them was loved, accepted, and forgiven in advance for all the mistakes to come.

What fun to find in Nicolas DiDomizio a new gay-fiction writer whose work I want to go back and read, and follow from here on.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

THE MINISTRY OF TIME, a review I feel guilty for writing


Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
$28.99 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: A time travel romance, a spy thriller, a workplace comedy, and an ingenious exploration of the nature of power and the potential for love to change it all: Welcome to The Ministry of Time, the exhilarating debut novel by Kaliane Bradley.

In the near future, a civil servant is offered the salary of her dreams and is, shortly afterward, told what project she’ll be working on. A recently established government ministry is gathering “expats” from across history to establish whether time travel is feasible—for the body, but also for the fabric of space-time.

She is tasked with working as a “bridge”: living with, assisting, and monitoring the expat known as “1847” or Commander Graham Gore. As far as history is concerned, Commander Gore died on Sir John Franklin’s doomed 1845 expedition to the Arctic, so he’s a little disoriented to be living with an unmarried woman who regularly shows her calves, surrounded by outlandish concepts such as “washing machines,” “Spotify,” and “the collapse of the British Empire.” But with an appetite for discovery, a seven-a-day cigarette habit, and the support of a charming and chaotic cast of fellow expats, he soon adjusts.

Over the next year, what the bridge initially thought would be, at best, a horrifically uncomfortable roommate dynamic, evolves into something much deeper. By the time the true shape of the Ministry’s project comes to light, the bridge has fallen haphazardly, fervently in love, with consequences she never could have imagined. Forced to confront the choices that brought them together, the bridge must finally reckon with how—and whether she believes—what she does next can change the future.

An exquisitely original and feverishly fun fusion of genres and ideas, The Ministry of Time asks: What does it mean to defy history, when history is living in your house? Kaliane Bradley’s answer is a blazing, unforgettable testament to what we owe each other in a changing world.


My Review
: I know how petty and spoiled I'm going to sound in this review, but I can't, in good conscience, ignore this extremely promising debut novel. I'm a complete sucker for time-travel novels and stories, and all the weirdness that accompanies the (incorrect, in my opinion) History-changing antics of time travelers. (I think there are many worlds in the multiverse.) The notion here presented of making use of the lives of those who died too soon for Other Ends is one with a lot of appeal to me.

And yet this is a five-star idea in a four-star book. I love the idea! I like the execution because it's not fussy, doesn't cram in irrelevancies but *does* offer squads and fleets of enriching details, both about the past and the story-present, just a bit down our own road. So what's wrong?

She makes the spy story an excuse to tell this fundamentally romantic story, not this idea to propel a spy story. The way it's resolved is good just not great, and that's down to the wrong-endedness of the grasp. Nameless Narratrix is, it's absurdly evident from the get-go, going to fall in love with her new "expat" (coy bureaucratese for "kidnapped time-traveling hostage") and they are going to Do the Deed. I'm on record as not liking heterosex in my life, no matter where it comes from, so this was never going to work for me. But after thinking a lot about this book and its wonderful humor, its inventive take on the purposes of time travel, and its very well-limned characters, I realized I'd be just as tetchy if Nameless had been a man bedding a man the way god intended.

The problem for me is that I think the romantic plot is just too similar to the squads and fleets of inferior iterations of Outlander that litter the romance-reader's landscape. Why do more of the same? Well, in this case, because 1) it sells, and b) it's vastly...enormously...better-done than anything else in its competition.

But here's whiny little me, moaning "just leave it out!" as Nameless and her "expat" have headboard-smashing sex. Y'all are voting with your wallets, the book's a hit and rightly so! But it isn't the book I wanted.

Hence four, not five, stars. And my shamefaced admission that this is NOT the review that this book merited.

Monday, May 20, 2024

THE GUNCLE ABROAD, sequel...with a knowing a surprise hit


G.P. Putnam's Sons
$29.00 hardcover, available tomorrow

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: From the nationally bestselling author of The Guncle comes the much-anticipated sequel, in which Patrick O’Hara is called back to his guncle duties…at a big, family wedding in Lake Como, Italy.

Patrick O’Hara is finally in a league of his own…professionally. Inspired by his stint as Grant and Maisie’s caretaker after their mother’s passing, Patrick has "un-stalled" his acting career with sit-com, Guncle Knows Best. Still, some things have had to take a back seat. Looking down both barrels at fifty, Patrick is single and lonely after breaking things off with Emory. But at least he has family, right?

When his brother Greg announces his big, second wedding in Lake Como, Italy, Patrick feels pulled toward Grant and Maisie and flies to Europe to attend the lavish event, only to butt heads with a newfound Launt (Lesbian Aunt), curb his sister Clara from flirting with guests, and desperately restore himself to the favored relative status in the eyes of the kids, as they struggle to adjust to a new normal. But is it Patrick’s job to save the day? Or is simply celebrating love enough to quell the family chaos?

Gracing the page with his signature blend of humor and heart, Steven Rowley delivers the long-awaited sequel to a beloved story, all about the complicated bonds of family, love, and what it takes to rediscover yourself, even at the ripe age of fifty.


My Review
: Teenagers. Yikes! Maisie's dad is getting remarried to a Very Glamourous Italian, which is NOT a way to a bookish teen girl's heart. Grant is eleven, doesn't really have a lot of interest in the wedding parts, but will—he thinks—definitely prefer his life without an Italian marchesa for a stepmom, since Maisie's churned those waters. The gruesome twosome turn to their truly belovèd Guncle Patrick, their Dad's big brother, for help stopping what they see as impending disaster.

Guncle ("gay uncle" if you need a refresher) has, in agreeing to "help" them, got a plan. The issue with plans is that teenagers, with their fully adult-strength emotions and complete absence of perspective, most often see through plans and get...stroppy...when they feel manipulated.

Clever Guncle...take the kids on a European tour, since he's already finishing up a film role in London, and talk to them...remember "Guncle Rules"? now they're "Love Languages"...while working through their fears about their Dad moving on from their Mom's early death. It will, not coincidentally, help him move on from his recent breakup with Emory, whom I feel sure we've all forgotten from The Guncle. At any rate, it's a welcome distraction from the entertainment business for a, and a man about to turn the Big Five-Oh. Yep, the guy who found being loudly reminded by his loving niece that he was forty-three tantamount to a hate crime is a half-century old.

Does his wiliness now exceed his willingness to be there for his family? Close-run thing if you ask me.

Well, Rowley's still got his humor vein open. I loved this bit:
“Sequels are either too bloated, too stuffed with B-team actors or characters or Ewoks—things that weren’t good enough for the original. A cash grab to profit off something that was probably a fluke in the first place.”

Cassie glanced at the surrounding patrons, perhaps wishing she could dine with one of them.

“The only time it maybe works—and I mean the only time—is when there wasn’t an ending that was entirely happy, when not everything was tied up in a neat little bow. Otherwise you have to undo someone’s happy ending to create more drama for your characters, and no one likes a happy ending undone. And what stories these days don’t have happy endings?”

Thus Patrick to his long-suffering agent...and Author Rowley tipping his hat to the audience. It's not the first time I've been here, so pay me the respect of telling me you're aware of that fact. I appreciated it, and was simultaneously amused by it. It joins the host of amusing moments that this whirlwind tour of Europe that must be completed in time for the destination wedding on Lake Como...shades of Patrick Dennis and Around the World with Auntie Mame, another sequel that has to undo a happy ending...and you get a fun, funny summertime escape in book form. That is a wonderful lot.

Of course, this is not the first time we've met these characters, so there's a lost sparkle that can't be recreated no matter what one does. In its place is a luster, the warm burnished glow from a fine silver samovar, one that always spills its tea warmed to perfection into your perfectly prepared cup. Sweet...the return and humanization of oldest sister Clara in her latest reinvention of self...bitter, Patrick's jealousy of the marchesa's lesbian sister who woos her way into Maisie and Grant's, the comical nightmare rehearsal dinner like something from The Philadelphia Story,, and honestly de trop. Tropes. Well polished, gleaming tropes that most story-loving readers want to read because they are familiar and dear and relatable. What story about a wedding that deserves one's attention at all doesn't feature some concatenation of mishaps?

The utter charm of how the world rights itself in romantic fiction is a source of delight.

Come be delighted. (But dear GOD, the w-verbing has got to stop!)

Saturday, May 18, 2024

PACKAGED LIVES: Ten Stories and a Novella, fiction that tells the truths of Iraqi lives

PACKAGED LIVES: Ten Stories and a Novella
(tr. Wen-Chin Ouyang)
Syracuse University Press
$14.95 all editions, available now

August is Women In Translation Month! The publisher has a special sale: Save 50% on print copies through their website! Use code 05WIT22 at checkout for your discount.


The Publisher Says: The carefully crafted, subtle, and humorous stories in Packaged Lives show Zangana at her best as a fiction writer. She portrays her subjects keenly, sensitively, and lovingly but without compromise. Iraqis living in exile come to life in her narratives as men and women who are caught between two worlds. They cannot return to their homeland and are forced to wait for news of Iraq from afar. At the same time, they are unable to fully adjust to life in Britain and make a new home for themselves. The question “What is home?” is at the heart of each story in this collection. Her protagonists, who are stuck in ready-made lives, or “packaged lives,” struggle to set themselves free from a web of relationships in which they are entangled. Art, poetry, and nature provide lines of escape. The relief may be fleeting, but the peace of mind and serenity are reached through the moment of epiphany at the end of each story, a much-needed balm.

Haifa Zangana is an Iraqi Kurdish writer and activist. She is the author of Women on a Journey: Between Baghdad and London, City of Widows: An Iraqi Woman’s Account of War and Resistance, Dreaming of Baghdad, and Party for Thaera: Palestinian Women Writing Life, among others.

Wen-chin Ouyang is professor of Arabic and comparative literature at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She is the author of Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel: Nation-State, Modernity and Tradition, and Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel: Nation-State, Modernity and Tradition. She has been working towards Arabic-Chinese comparative literary and cultural studies, including Silk Road studies.


My Review
: The author's life is, in the tiny squib above, an abbreviated roll call of her creativity. What is most important you don't discover until reading Michael Beard's Introduction: She is old enough to remember a pre-Saddam Iraq, one that was becoming its best self; then the translator, in her fresh bereavement, fills in those bones with the emotional muscles and life-lived sinews of her long friendship with the author and her own husband. The image called forth is of a loose, but powerful, bond of those few friends one makes in life who can be called "true blue through-and-through besties."

As is my established custom, you'll get a story-by-story note and rating, then a summation, or the Bryce Method as it's better known around here.











Packaged Life

Thursday, May 16, 2024

SEEKER, the first book of The Sentinel Archives, indie fantasy novels with an edge

SEEKER (The Sentinel Archives #1)
Panthe Press (non-affiliate Amazon link)
$5.99 Kindle edition, available now

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: "Today I am equipped with the knowledge that my future was to be far greater, more exciting, and more disturbing than anything so simple as my young imagination could then conjure. Indeed, looking back, my forecast was positively quaint. I ask myself a question often, and it is this: if I had understood all that was to befall me, would I have run, that day, or exulted?

I find I do not know."

Ancient leviathans have stirred from their long slumber. Their scent song marks where they might be found but only to those who have the means to somewhat hear it: Sentinel Archivists.

Shay Bluefaltlow finds herself training to become such a specialist when she is forced into indentured servitude. Her new home, the city of Fivedock, is strange and unfamiliar, as are her new companions: a belligerent surgeon, a remarkable little boy, and a formidable Sentinel Archivist tasked with teaching Shay the terrifying ways of the trade.

Her unanticipated position requires rigorous training, diligent study and a strong constitution. Shay, afraid she is unequal to the prodigious task but desperate to impress her superior, struggles to prove herself.

When war breaks out across the Concord, the office of the Sentinel Archivist is threatened by a terrible betrayal. And Shay has secrets of her own.

Packed with era detail to bring the world to vivid life, realistic, but with strong fantastical elements, a rich regency voice, and a bewitching touch of strangeness, Seeker is an immersive first-person fantasy for adults.

Griffin does for regency era fantasy what Robin Hobb did for medieval: this isn’t just a fiction, this is a living and breathing world you dunk yourself in. An intimate journey with real characters. With incredibly accomplished, enchanting prose, and a beating heart of a story.


My Review
: You like fantasy novels more than I do. I promise you this is true. So why did I get a DRC of this title?

To see if there are cracks in my walls of resistance. And, well, I like this novel just fine. The ideas don't cause me to roll my eyes...the worldbuilding, in other words, does iits job with reasonable facility...but neither did the idea of an orphan-special-chosen-one meets scoobygroup cause me to get all excited. Executed well, or I'd've made tracks for the door; still, not the most energizing choice for this fantasy agnostic.

The faux-archaic tone, for some reason, hit me the right way. I was surprised by this, honestly because I usually find it arch and/or tedious. Author Griffin did a good job finding a middle ground between those unpleasant poles. As a result, I really enjoyed the read.

It moves slowly. The first half of the book is just not paced correctly, in that there were many times scenes went on way too long, and I was sorely tempted to shut the Kindle and move on to other things. That I didn't is honestly a little miracle. The Archivists kept me going. I wanted to know what the heck this was all connected to. But keep in mind I'm not a fantasy-novel reader as a rule. Maybe you fantasy aficionados will respond differently. Those who like the trend towards library- and archive-centered stories could, in particular, find something special.

Why I think you should give it a chance really boils down to that. You read the genre? Read widely! Wider than usual, for you "high-fantasy" folks. Much on a par for those who loved Susanna Clarke's magisterial Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Magic and fantasy, books and lore, people and quests, just belong together. Come get some more.