wonderland-meets-neverland with more prescriptive scarification and cannibalism.
this is a fantastic read from a very dark imagination. the story-elements are almost too bonkers to type out: dora is a girl who is sometimes a rock, birthed outta the earth for a wanna-be father who very quickly didn’t wanna-be a father no more. abandoned & anomalous, she spends her days in the company of thistle, a boy she has come to regard as an adopted brother. thistle lost his true name when he was kidnapped from his/our world, led across dimensions and forced into servitude—an attendant to the masters of a twisted fairytale place known as the gardens. here, time stands still—for the masters, anyway—who enjoy a neverending cycle of croquet, feasts, and hedonistic revelries; never aging, never remembering anything beyond the pleasures of the moment. less fortunate are their mortal servants like thistle, who suffer horrible punishments for minor infractions and are killed when they get too old. and thistle, although doing his best to disguise it, is getting too old.
there’s also a purple lady named ghorbi who trades and travels and makes wishes come true…for a price, porla the fish lady and her pet corpse, a kindly pair of vittra, a powerful librarian-entity, mysterious hooded beings who preside over the crossroads between dimensions, and a troupe of actors who perform the stories of all the worlds; empathy-chameleons* who can permeate their borders.
it’s got all the traits and trappings of a fairytale—the creatures, the journeys, the tests, the power of names, and it’s beautifully melancholic when it’s not being a straight-up gleeful bloodbath.
augusta is a terrific villain who would be great friends with jill from seanan mcguire’s wayward children series while dora was hanging out with the rock-narrator of The Raven Tower. and while i’m here recklessly namedropping other things, even though i stupidly haven’t read Piranesi yet, i get the sense that it might sorta be a gentler flipside of this story. we’ll see how accurate my book-spidey senses are about this whenever i get around to reading it.
* figurative, although literal empathy-chameleons would fit right in here
i won a book! but since it pubs on tuesday, you will probably get the chance to read it before i do, so no spoilers please!
review coming, i promise!