This has been one of my most anticipated books of the year and the last book I read for this year’s r/Fantasy Bingo challenge. I was, first and foremost, intrigued by the Hungarian and Jewish influences. I like cultural worldbuilding, I like(d?) folktale-inspired fantasy, it seemed like a sure bet. Unfortunately, it was yet another disappointment – while I liked the themes of religious tolerance and the protagonist being torn between worlds, the plot was a nonsensical mess, the characters mediocre, and the ending more than a little eyebrow-raising, featuring one of my least favourite tropes. And not in a good way. The more I think about it, the less sense the plot makes – never a good thing.
However, due to the nature of my issues with the book, it’s impossible to talk about them in any detail without going heavily into spoiler territory. So be aware of that if you venture below the cut.
ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review.
The House in the Cerulean Sea was one of my favourite books of 2020. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to read Under the Whispering Door as well. Unlike Cerulean Sea, this wasn’t an instant hit with me – but it won me over completely before the halfway point and that’s vanishingly rare. It counts for something.
As much as I anticipated this book and as much as I wanted to read it (as I’d read anything Alix E. Harrow writes), it released right about when I was in the worst of my slump. So it waited. And waited. Until finally, the time seemed about right. I have to admit that in the end, I didn’t like it quite as much as The Ten Thousand Doors of January – still, it was enjoyable enough, very witchy and very angry.
She thought survival was a selfish thing, a circle drawn tight around your heart. She thought the more people you let inside that circle the more ways the world had to hurt you, the more ways you could fail them and be failed in turn. But what if it’s the opposite, and there are more people to catch you when you fall?
And we’re all a little frayed around the edges, aren’t we? It doesn’t surprise me and it doesn’t frighten me, finding out you’re only human like the rest of us.
This is one of my favourite finds this year.
Have you ever wondered what happens to children violently thrown from portal fantasy worlds? Do you think Susan from Narnia deserved better? Are you looking for something quiet and melancholy? Did you wish the Wayward Children novellas were darker and longer? Then you should absolutely read it.
I admit that I went into this book with some hesitation. The author’s previous book, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, was a clear DNF for me, but I’ve been told this one is different and I might like it (after all, I like weirdness and strange houses), so I reluctantly gave it a try. And I was instantly hooked.
Once again, it’s time for a batch of mini reviews. I might not be in a reading slump anymore, not quite, but I am in a bit of a reviewing slump and I finally have enough of these hoarded up for a post.
This was, I confess, a complete impulse read. I was idly browsing cheap ebooks and – hey, I’ve heard of this before. And it looks to be barely longer than a novella, too! Checking the preview, the strangeness of it all was incredibly compelling. I had to go back to it at the earliest possible opportunity.
This was pretty much an impulse read. I saw a lot of talk about it in the last couple weeks, I was curious but not enough to disrupt my already messy TBR, then the magical words “it’s short” got mentioned. And sure enough, at only a little over novella length, it’s an astonishingly quick read, but that doesn’t mean it packs any less of a punch.
I’m not sure where to even start with this book – I’m not sure a review can do it justice. I picked it up because I heard about the 18th century references and it turned out to be one of the craziest, best, wildest, most cursed rides involving a lot of quite uncharacteristic incoherent screaming. It has to be experienced to be believed. As hard as it was to tell from my commentary while I was reading it, I think I might have a new favourite series. Definitely not for everyone, but very up multiple of my niche alleys.
I struggle to open history’s inner doors to you, to teach you how those who made this new era think and feel. In my age we have come anew to see history as driven not by DNA and economics, but by man. And woman. And so must you.