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Well, I don't exactly know how to review this book. It started very well, I was caught by the novelty of the style and the introduction of the charactar, then within a short time the plot became so complex and even wierd that I could not follow it. Maybe other readers can find there way with this book.
This review is for the audio version. From the book's description, and the enthusiastic reviews of other readers, I felt this book would be right in my wheelhouse. Among my favorites are: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the Magicians series, Harry Potter, and the Monster Blood Tattoo series. I like both adult and YA/middle grade fantasies, as long as they're not too derivative. I figured this author would definitely write something original.
Unfortunately, I've just given up on Chapter 28 (out of 80). This book is just OVERLOADED with whimsy. Every paragraph introduces a new, (admittedly clever) magical concept, creature or artifact. I reached my limit when the lead character's pocket knife jumped out of his jacket and climbed up to his shoulder. There are semi-living magical machines that are powered by ground-up animals, a botanical spy who uses dandelion fluff as agents, multi-worlds that are traversed through a series of magical doors, talking animals (and vegetables), no less than TWO all-powerful magical objects (one a Golden Sphere, the other a Black Bauble), an "elephant gun" that shoots out not bullets but actual elephants ...and it just goes on and on.
This is a good choice for someone who likes books with a lot of whimsy; perhaps fans of the Xanth novels? It's not for me. It might make a good animated movie or television series. It reads a bit like a trippy piece of animation rendered in prose.
Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2020
I had high expectations of this book. I gave it 11 chapters before throwing in the towel. Fantasy is fine but in here there is just too much weird, wild, whimsy, random details/objects/characters. It’s too crowded. There are so many leads and hints and possible paths for possible developments that my mind stopped trying to follow. And caring to follow. If I took drugs, I think I might really enjoy this book while in a second state. But stone cold sober, I can find no rules or structure to the tale, and things are too strange and random for my brain to enjoy the trip. Too bad.
I have to start by saying that I am a huge VanderMeer fan. The worlds he creates are weird, dark, and fantastical, and I love it. I am normally immersed in the world of VanderMeer’s stories, but this one is written in such a bland style that I did not care about any of the characters or their quests. It’s unfortunate because the premise is so interesting - I couldn’t wait to know what happens in a VanderMeer telling of when a boy inherits his eccentric grandfather’s estate. However, I quickly lost interest. My critique feels strange because even though there are a lot of interesting ideas in the story, the characters have no depth and there is absolutely no world-building. The main character is hurled into a secret world and asked to go on an adventure, which he and his companions do without question. I didn’t buy any of their motivations and the lack of depth makes it feel chaotic and boring. I struggled to get through about 200 pages and gave up. Sorry, VanderMeer. I will look forward to your next work!
After spending five hours listening to the audiobook, I am giving up. This feel like reading a script written by a writer that wanted to leave nothing to a readers imagination. It is sinking in too much trivial information.
This bizarre creation is like a cross between Terry Pratchett on heavy medication, and the very worst of Monty Python. Without the humour. The whole thing is a rambling, hallucinatory fever dream of delirium, with one of the main characters as Napoleon’s head (yes, just the head). I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed in this awful drivel. What on earth happened. I cannot believe this is by the same author as the fantastic Area X series.
I never bail on books, but for the life of me I could not get past chapter three. What a confusing, convoluted, pretentious, and annoying writing style. The story was average, but the overall effect of the novel was completely sickening to me.