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The West Passage, by Jared Pechaček

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Two young people are left to fend for themselves–and their home–in a crumbling castle of varied tower traditions and strange denizens. The Guardian and the Mother of Grey House each have an apprentice at the beginning of this book of shifting names and identities. Each is saddled with a quest that feels insurmountable: to warn Black Tower of the coming of the Beast, to fix the seasons back in their courses so that winter follows autumn in its proper time rather than arriving in the middle of summer. Each must travel through a landscape of fantastical people, thoughtful bees and apes, less thoughtful humans, all tied to their own roles and customs, each holding to fragments of belief that might illuminate the past or the future or both. There will be miracles, but they might not be useful. There will be giant Ladies, but their loyalties are unsure. But Grey House is home, and the two apprentices try to protect it and–at least some form of–the lives they have known.

It’s a very weird book, and it’s not doing the same thing as everything else, and I liked it. Also it stands on its own (unlike Grey House–little Grey House humor for my denizens out there). Also it’s got little illustrations Pechaček did for the chapter heads and that, rabbit-headed squires in their cotehardies and Schoolmasters trying to teach their apes when the apes already know more. It feels…colored like a medieval manuscript, is what I want to say. The prose is not medieval, but the colors are, the seasons, the sense of people having known places that aren’t as solid as they wanted to hope in their childhoods. Not the faux knights of cod medievalism but the Great Chain of Being and the wheels of the world shifting and also the uncertainty about weather and food of the actual medieval world. And sometimes people eating ortolans, that helps with the medieval feel as well, and the ravenousness of a baby Lady, and the rarity and importance of manuscript, and…yeah, there’s a lot here, it’s going to be hard to explain, and that’s the point, it’s an uncertain-world sort of book, it’s a book for an uncertain world. Are you having one of those? Well.

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