Warning: This is a gushing post. I have a whole hearted Kristin Cashore fan since Graceling was published and seduced me back to alternate-world Fantasy.
That said…..I almost DNF’d this book.
Yep, you read that right. Oh it starts well enough. You have delightfully eccentric Janie (makes artistic umbrellas, uses images of her lungs as jellyfish to calm herself down) who is naive without being stupid who goes with an old friend to Tu Reviens, an enormous mansion of secrets on an island staffed with stoic servants who may know something about the disappearance and death of Janie’s beloved Aunt Magnolia.
And one of those servants, Ivy, catches Jane’s romantic attention with verbal sparring about Scrabble words (I know, right? How awesome is that?) and there is brouhaha about some missing artwork and Janie possibly sees a child who is supposed to be under witness protection and she is followed around by a preternaturally smart and adorable Basset Hound.
Then the first part of the book ends. And that’s where I almost gave up. All the following sections are alternate adventures where Janie makes a decision to go follow one or another of the characters to ask questions and ends up learning a variety of different bewildering things based on that choice. I gave up because a) I don’t like choose your own adventure, missing out on adventures makes me crazy, i have to know ALL of them and b) i’m pretty sure I have adult-onset ADHD and reading through the same bit of plot line over and over again is a recipe for BORING.
But this is Kristin Cashore, so I struggled on.
And it’s worth the struggle. Each version of Janie’s story resulting from the choice she makes somehow masterfully alludes to the other versions through excellent little details that slowly, slowly paints a delightfully complex and imaginative picture of the truth behind Tu Reviens.
And each version gives a bow to different genres as well: gothic, slightly absurdist, spy thriller, etc.
So you don’t get bored. And you do end up with an emotionally satisfying conclusion at the end that you literally KNOW is the best of all possible worlds.
This is super cool, emotionally satisfying, and fun all at the same time.