Suspenseful, philosophical, and inventive, this sparkling novel explores the power of memory and love.

THE KINGDOMS

Napoleon conquered England in this time-travel/alt-history fantasy set at the turns of the 19th and 20th centuries.

When Joe Tournier steps off a train from Glasgow in Londres in 1898, he can remember his name but very little else. He’s suffering from “silent epilepsy,” a doctor tells him, which is characterized not by the usual convulsions but by symptoms associated with epileptic auras: amnesia, paramnesia, visions. Paramnesia is “the blurring of something imaginary and something real,” explains the doctor, giving what might work equally well as a definition of fiction, particularly of Pulley’s favored fantasy genre. In the time-travel subgenre, of course, there are better explanations than epilepsy for déjà vu (“the sense you’ve seen something new before”) and its opposite, jamais vu (“when something that should be familiar feels wholly alien”). Joe’s master retrieves him from the hospital—like most people of English descent under the reign of Napoleon IV, Joe is enslaved—and takes him home to Joe’s wife, who is not the same woman as Madeline, the wife Joe believes he remembers. A postcard delivered almost a century after it’s mailed sends Joe north to the Outer Hebrides on a quest to learn about his forgotten past and perhaps find Madeline. There, he passes through a time portal into the middle of the Napoleonic War at a point when victory hangs in the balance—and when previous temporal crossings have already made that balance wobble and spin. Missouri Kite, an officer in the Royal Navy, and his sister and ship’s surgeon, Agatha Castlereagh, hope to use information and technology from the future to win the war for the British. Is it too late to change history? Can Joe help Kite and Agatha without changing the future so much that he endangers the toddler daughter he left behind in 1900—or indeed, his own existence? As scenes spiral back and forth between centuries, the book’s emotional center crystallizes around a fundamental mystery: Who, in fact, is Joe? All time-travel plots are fraught with paradox, but not all rise to Pulley’s level of tricky cleverness, and few of those trickily clever books rise to her level of emotional intensity.

Suspenseful, philosophical, and inventive, this sparkling novel explores the power of memory and love.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-608-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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