Magic features heavily throughout. There are enchanted hallucinations, otherworldly battles, and a modern-day shootout with a hellish twist. However, the world’s rules are not always well-defined. Exactly how the magic works is left up to interpretation: who can use it, what it does, and who grants the power. This lack of clarity can make the plot somewhat difficult to follow, and although the twist at the end is surprising, it also feels a bit out of the blue.
The novel’s construction is episodic: there is no single protagonist and no clear, overarching goal. The third-person narration follows Melsafar, Jonathon, Gwain, James, and servants alike—heroes, villains, and everyone in between. This is both a strength and a weakness. While the novel is fast-paced (years are spanned in sentences, generations crossed through chapters), no one character is developed at length. Often, characters die before their full potential is explored. Even though there is no single hero, however, there are well-defined villains throughout; the reader always has someone to root against (be it Melsafar or the Devil himself). And, as lean as it is, this entertaining book covers a lot of ground and touches on some very serious philosophical questions in the process. Fans of genre-bending epics will find much here to sink their teeth into.
Takeaway: This philosophical fantasy novel combines the medieval and the modern-day, perfect for fans of genre-bending epics and moral conundrums.
Great for fans of: Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Teresa Frohock's Miserere.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B