By Owen King
Narrated by Marin Ireland
Released March 2023
14 Hours 19 Minutes
The story is set during a revolt to overthrow the monarchic government in a fictional city nicknamed “The Fair” for its river that is anything but fair. Not only is the Dickensian city fictional, it appears to be set in a parallel universe with just enough outside of it mentioned to feel real, but with enough quirks to make it obvious that it isn’t. The split moons will clear that up in a heartbeat.
Just days after the government is ousted, Dora shucks off her identity as a maid and attempts to take possession of the Museum of Psykical Research to find out what happened to her brother who died in service to the museum. Unfortunately, only the doorway and a vestibule are left in the burnt rubble, so she takes possession of the neighboring Museum of the Worker, taking on the role of Curator.
From there, the tale twists and turns, bringing in the lead revolutionaries, cunning people from the slums, and one of the most menacing protagonists I’ve encountered in a good while. From a bizarrely easy overthrow, to double crosses, misused magick, a flying morgue ship collecting souls, and revered cats, Dora’s perception of life, of human nature, and of good and evil grows and shrinks more than Alice down the rabbit hole.
This is truly a winding tale and at times, I had no idea where the author was going with it, but the characters were riveting enough that I followed along and trusted he’d get me to an understanding by the end. It all came together, but goodness – the author took the advice to kill his darlings to heart. So reader be warned, there’s quite a bit of carnage in this book.
If this novel only focused on Dora, I might have gotten bored (even though there was a lot more to her than it seemed at first, it took a really long time to get there). The six degrees of separation between seemingly unrelated characters was well played, as was the insertion of future objects and how they were perceived in this society. (The Gucci purse was a stand-out in this regard.) I also appreciated the fact that the author assumed his readers are intelligent enough to “get” references in the book. There’s a lot of great stuff slipped in that made me sit up and take notice, but he never beat me over the head with explanations, like I’ve seen in some writing. If you’ve read or listened to this already, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Final words: It was an admittedly strange novel but also captivating, even if parts were like a train wreck you want to look away from but can’t. I think I might have liked it a bit more than other reviewers solely based on overall ratings because I definitely found it worth the time invested in listening.
4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Until next time, thank you for visiting.