RogerBW's Blog

Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace 07 January 2016

2015 fantasy/SF. Wasp is an Archivist, hunting, studying and binding ghosts for the goddess Catchkeep and Her priest in a world that has suffered some great catastrophe in the distant past.

I almost gave up on this book around a third of the way through, because it seemed so much less interesting than the book in my mind that seemed as though it should go with this title. Wasp's world, both the external environment and her mind, is a dreary place, and as the narration is tight third-person we don't get anyone else's perspective. Every year the Archivist has to fight to the death with three "upstarts", girls also marked for Catchkeep's service, and if any of them beats her they'll be the new Archivist. Nobody likes the Archivist, and she doesn't much like them. Well, that's all setup for the real story.

That real story is one of ghosts, and the underworld where they live. Ghosts never talk, but Wasp meets one that does, and it makes a bargain with her… because there are things that ghosts want, too. The bulk of the book is a journey through the world of the ghosts, which is also a world of the mind, and an echo of the time before everything fell apart.

In shape this is very much a bildungsroman and/or hero's journey, but it doesn't feel tired the way many such stories do; yes, the things Wasp learns in the land of the dead will have an effect on her normal life, but in a way that feels genuine. I think that may be because Wasp is no naïve farmgirl or blank-slate proxy for the reader: there are lots of things she doesn't know as the book starts, but she is a functioning adult, if not a very pleasant one.

Even so, something was prodding her gently at the back of her mind. It took her a moment to recognize it as her conscience.

Names are important. Wasp's guide is always "the ghost"; her superior is always "the Catchkeep-priest". Wasp herself had another name once, and in the first of a series of points of self-discovery she has to remember it.

There are many clichéd paths that could have been taken and aren't. We don't find out about the details of the end of the world. We don't meet the gods. (Yes, this isn't a book that gives all the answers, though it does resolve the most important things.) There isn't a forced romance. This is a very personal story at all times, even if many of the people are technically dead.

Somewhat to my surprise after my early disappointment, this turned out to be one of my favourite books of the year. Highly recommended.

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

Series: Archivist Wasp | Next in series: Latchkey

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