RogerBW's Blog

Summer in Orcus, T Kingfisher 11 October 2023

2017 fantasy, first released as a web serial. When Baba Yaga's house walks into Summer's back yard, she sets off on an adventure…

Once upon a time there was a girl named Summer, whose mother loved her very very very much.

This book is a strange beast, I think for two reasons discussed in the afterword: it started out as the author's file of ideas to use some time that didn't fit in to what she was currently writing, and it was released first as a web serial.

So it's both chaotic and bitty. It's a response to portal fantasy such as the Narnia books, with a child who acts more than most like a real child (for example, Summer is allowed to be scared, and have bad dreams about things that have happened, without that disqualifying her as a protagonist); at the same time, it's largely a series of encounters in and with separate strange places that are each complete in themselves, rather than forming part of a larger coherent mythology.

In that respect it rather reminded me of The Phantom Tollbooth or The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, similarly fantasy for children in which for me the picaresque feel of the series of individual events takes precedence over the greater story or the consistency of worldbiulding. So it's great fun to read, and I suspect it would be even greater fun to read at a chapter a week, but taken over the space of a few days there's something of a whiplash of both subject matter and tone.

By the end none of the things wrong in Summer's life has been put right by her experiences. Some of those problems did affect what she did in Orcus, which is good – she's not just a generic placeholder protagonist for the reader to see as themselves, but someone with individual characteristics – but it left me feeling slightly unsatisfied.

There's a wolf who turns into a house at night, and is on the watch for house hunters. There's Reginald Hoopoe, a rusticating dandy who talks in Regency cant. There's a stained-glass saint in purple sneakers. There's the Queen-in-Chains and Zultan Houndbreaker. There's a weasel.

"Go on, girl," she said, "go on. It's only a weasel."

"Does it bite?" asked Summer warily.

"Of course it bites. It's a weasel. They don't kill their prey with pretty words and poisoned sweetmeats."

All of these things are individually great, but somehow when they're all stuffed into a single narrative they start to feel forced. So I liked it quite a bit, but I'm sure I'd have liked it more if I'd read it spread out in serial form.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1