I’ve seen this book pop up on my various social media feeds with increasing frequency over the last few months. A large majority of those people seemed to really enjoy this book, so I decided to give it a go. I feel like the cover promised me something whimsical and fun, and that’s what I was delivered.
This is a warm story that’s intimate and focused on characters. I’d say if you’re a fan of Becky Chambers you’d probably enjoy this since it follows the same kind of recipe. It’s not the action packed plot that pulls you along, it’s a dialogue among friends and family that’s engaging and endearing.
This follows a story of a man named Linus, he’s an outcast sort of character who doesn’t have any friends. The first thing that stood out to me about him is that he’s an ‘unlikely’ protagonist. He doesn’t have any special abilities, he’s not royalty, he’s not gifted and has no magic. He’s a forty year old man who’s getting thick around the middle and is a push over. He’s bullied at work, he’s bullied by his neighbors, the whole world seems to have and exaggerated disdain for him.
Linus works for a government agency that’s in charge of monitoring and controlling supernatural creatures and humans with special abilities. His job is to go into orphanages for ‘gifted’ children and assess if the children are a danger to themselves or others, and if it’s safe to keep them at said orphanage. The agency he works for is incredibly bureaucratic in a very cartoonish way. Think Hitchhiker’s Guide’s Vogons, or the agency Hermes works for on Futurama. The agency is run by a council known as the Extremely Upper Management, and they take an interest in Linus since he embodies everything they love in a good employee for a bureaucracy. They end up sending him to a top secret orphanage where the most extreme children are housed. One of which is known as Lucy, short for Lucifer, and he’s been tagged as the antichrist. He’s quite endearing once you get to know him.
This story is meant to get you thinking about deconstructing prejudices built in from society, what it means to find your way in life, and how outcasts can band together to form families. There really wasn’t a whole lot of plot to speak of, other than it’s up to Linus whether this orphanage gets to stay open or not.
The world building is kind of loose and didn’t get a ton of page time. This is set in a pseudo earth or an alternate earth… the music and culture is much the same, but big things have been altered… like the existence of Sprites, Gnomes, wyverns, jellyfish-like people etc. I didn’t know much about the world at large since so much of the page time is spent inside of the house which is on a secluded island. I couldn’t say with certainty how much our world differed from theirs. There is however a Big Brother type overtone with propaganda posters plastered everywhere that say, “see something, say something”.
The prose style is very whimsical and light which made for easy listening. I’ve seen some people tag this as a comedy, but I would say it’s less a comedy and more warm and light hearted with bits of humor here and there. I picked up the audiobook for this one and the narrator, Daniel Henning, I thought did a great job. The pacing could be kind of slower depending on your preference for lots of dialogue and not much plot. I found it engaging sometimes, but repetitive other times. I got through this whole book in a day, but I think that’s largely because it was on audio and I cranked it to 2x.
I very much so enjoyed my time with this book and it was a great way to lighten my mood and give me something to listen to while I colored. It’s a very warm story that I think will appeal strongly to some and maybe fall short for others depending on what it is you want in your fantasy.
TLDR Snap Shot:
- Tropes: Outcast orphans forming a new family, magic users feared
- Tags: LGBT romance, magical creatures, whimsical magic, light hearted, humorous, warm, character focused, not much action, slow burn
- Genre: Urban Fantasy, YA?
- Plot: 11/15
- Characters: 13/15
- World Building: 10/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 11/15
- Originality: 12.5/15
- Personal Enjoyment: 8/10
Final Score: 77.5/100 or 3.88/5 stars on GR