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Jo Walton

NESFA Press (2009)

ISBN: 1-886778-82-5

Reviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts, March 2010

This one was recommended to me as “domestic fantasy”, which was intriguing from the start. Also, it was Jo Walton. Say no more. Jo Walton has this amazing knack of writing novels that feel like they would have been written a century ago, if our current genre traditions existed then.

What I wasn’t expecting was a marvellous, complex narrative that entirely messed with my head. Walton uses omniscient narration beautifully, weaving in and out of her characters’ heads, shifting perspective exactly when it needs to be shifted. The narrative is non-linear in many ways, not least because Taveth, the most important of the protagonists, has the ability to see people’s pasts and futures, and views the world through a Doctor Manhattan style haze. Part of the story indeed is the discussion of how to tell the story, between the few people left to tell it, and the narrative makes it clear that this telling is imperfect and unreliable, filtered through the eyes of those who missed much of what was going on. We shift from time period to time period, like flitting through the collective memories of the household, back and forth, until a coherent picture forms. It’s the kind of book that makes you want to read it all over again when you’re done, just to see how she did it.

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