The Fissure King by Rachel Pollack

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This is another chance I took through Amazon Plus on audible, it’s a collection of novellas that’s been combined into a novel. Does it feel like five novellas crammed into one novel? Yes. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you know that going into it and are prepared to essentially read a bunch of novellas set in the same world with the same character.

This guy is basically a supernatural detective. He’s able to travel between the realm of the living and an in-between limbo that exists between life and death – the forest of souls. It looks like an endless forest and inside lurk those who’ve gotten stuck between worlds, occasionally a living person will find themselves trapped in there, but it’s usually ghosts. Each of the five novellas focuses on a different case he takes, and they get stranger as it goes along – including a time where his duplicate hires him to kill himself.

Despite being a very well written character, I never really warmed to Jack Shade. In fact, he started out more sympathetic than he ended I feel like. His daughter became possessed by a poltergeist around 14 years old, and then she killed his wife, her mother, with a knife. She didn’t mean to, she was horrified when she realized what had happened but it was too late. To make things more tragic, Jack asked for help, for her to be kept safe away from people she could hurt… only to have her end up in the Forest of Souls, lost.

This world had a little bit of everything in regards to fantasy elements – there were sprites, spirits, ghosts, demons, golems, mirror worlds, elementals, witches, sorcerers, seers etc. In that way the world building was pretty expansive, with each novella a little more of the world was unlocked and felt like it had more depth. For the amount of world building packed into a small amount of space, there was surprisingly little in the way of info dumps, which I love.

The prose was a highlight for me in this book. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but something about the way it was written just the content easy to digest and immerse myself in it. There was just enough description to keep a constant visual in my head, but not so much it clogs the story and takes me out of the moment. The dialogue was smooth, natural, and entertaining. The one drawback is that I know what each woman’s breasts are like, how big they are, or how small they are, or what kind of clothes the women wear to try and accentuate their boobs. I wish a woman could just cross her arm and not have the male gazey narrative comment on “her magnificent breasts”…

I think maybe my problem with reading novellas is that I’m always left with wanting more. In this case, however, because there were five of them I felt like I got to know the world and the character enough to latch onto it. I would recommend this to people looking for detective stories, lots of fantasy elements, a grey character with a tragic backstory and fast paced adventure.

TLDR Snapshot:

  • Tropes: detective/noir, ghosts, dead family, gruff rough character
  • Tags: lots of fantasy elements, lots of magic, fast paced, easy to read, audiobook
  • Genre: urban fantasy/noir


  • Plot: 11/15
  • Character: 12.5/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 12.5/15
  • Pacing: 12/15
  • Originality: 13/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 80/100 or 4/5 on Goodreads