Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

“May your Paths be safe, your Floors unbroken and may the House fill your eyes with Beauty.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 272 pages.
Read from October 20, 2020 to October 22, 2020.

I read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in 2010, more than 10 years ago. While I remember next to nothing about the book I must have enjoyed it enough to show interest in this new book by the same author. Now that I have read Piranesi and having added a few more years of age (maybe some wisdom in there too), I would probably enjoy re-reading Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell again. With more than 15 years between the publications of these two books, here is hoping we don’t have to wait that long for another book by this great author.

Piranesi is a curious man living within an even more curious home he calls The House. Its rooms and corridors are infinite and surrounded by oceans with its water that flood and fill rooms with ebbing and flowing with the tides. The rooms are decorated with stunning pieces of art and sculptures as well as ocean wildlife like birds and fish. Piranesi spends his time mapping this labyrinth that he lives in and living off the meagre resources it provides him. There are others in the House but the majority of them are dead in which Piranesi honours their rotting bodies and speculates how they came to be here and their previous existence. He doesn’t get lonely though as there is The Other, a man that comes and goes, talks to him frequently while he carries out his Great and Secret Knowledge research that he is obsessed with. Piranesi never questions his existence or the strange world he lives in until a newcomer, he calls 16, since they are the sixteenth person to come to the House (including the dead) but is warned by The Other to avoid this person at all costs. Piranesi’s inexpiable trust in The Other begins to wane as he begins to communicate with 16 through secret messages. 16 is trying to locate a person he doesn’t know and is inquiring about the bodies with The House. Piranesi begins to wonder if The Other is his friend at all and about his existence within The House, as well as the presence and life of a world outside of The House.

What a concept and plot! There were so many ways this book could have gone wrong since. From the historical references to the abstract concept and world within the book. To truly appreciate the genius of the book you need to know who Giovanni Battista Piranesi is. Piranesi lived in the 1700s and was a respected etcher, painter and architect. He is most known for his series of prints called ‘Carceri d’invenzione or ‘Imaginary Prison‘. The series shows a whimsical labyrinth of underground rooms, stairs, art, and machinery.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 01 - Title Plate.jpg
First plate in the first edition of ‘Le Carceri d’Invenzione

This art as well as the artist is the inspiration and metaphor for The House Clarke’s story. When Piranesi’ world begins to unravel is when you start to fully grasp just how crazy this story is. The concept of this story could have easily gone wrong if it were in the hands of any other writer but Clarke executed it perfectly. The story is engaging and whimsical but grounded enough even for those who may not be as interested in fantasy. Having never seen the real ‘Imaginary Prison‘ etches prior to reading this book, Clarke’s imagery and descriptions of The House provided me with the intimate detail and feel of the real etchings. The world that Clarke creates is immensely visceral and as a reader, you come to feel at home in The House, especially because Piranesi’s character is so endearing.

I adored this book and was dismayed at its short length. Even with its historical reference, it wasn’t a requirement to enjoy this story though it adds an immense amount of depth to the story. It’s a book I would reread and would recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or fantasy.

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler

If watched or read the book, what are you thoughts on them? Did you enjoy one and not the other? Or did you like/dislike them both?

3/5 stars.
ebook, 416 pages.
Read from September 8, 2020 to September 10, 2020.

You know, the problem with not doing book reviews within the same week that you read them is that the ones that don’t make an impression then become hard to write about because you forget about them. Eh, my bad. Let’s see what I can pull together for this review.

Cursed is an interesting take on the story of King Arthur. Nimue is of the fey people and is an outcast in her own community due to her mysterious and uncontrollable powers. When the fanatical human religious group called the Red Paladins begin exterminating her kind, Nimue’s mother sends her off with a mysterious sword with strict instructions to bring the sword to Merlin, a fey who is considered a traitor to his kind. Merlin has been working beside the human king and seems to have lost his powers so he takes to drink (a lot) and tries to fool others into thinking he is still powerful. Yet Merlin can sense something is stirring within the magical realm and feels a deep connection to the sword. Nimue is assisted by a human mercenary named Arthur who helps her escape the Paladins in her journey to deliver the sword. Throughout the journey, Nimue becomes the voice and figure of hope for the fey people as she wields the sword and uses her magic to combat the Paladins. The Paladins call her the Wolf Witch and they want her head but Nimue is resistant to this heroic role that she has been thrown upon her as she now finds herself responsible for the fate of her own people.

Nimue is supposed to represent the average underdog but she was not the heroine I was hoping for. I was often disappointed with how she handled herself in situations and there were a few very stereotypical YA tropes that took place within her character, the plot, and Nimue’s relationship with Arthur. Conceptually I enjoyed this book, it’s a great idea, but it wasn’t as exciting as I was anticipating. For one, and sorry to Frank Miller and his fans, the artwork wasn’t what I was expecting and it felt really disjointed from the story and writing and added absolutely nothing to the plot for me. When I picked up this book I was actually expecting a graphic novel as I knew that Frank Miller was apart of it, I didn’t actually know it was a novel. The images felt like they were meant for a completely different plotline and that perhaps Frank Miller was not the best choice of artist for this story like somehow a YA novel shouldn’t be paired with one of the most violent graphic novel artists? The artwork wasn’t even all that prominent even, just a few images thrown throughout the book. It’s like the publishing company knew that by having Frank Miller put in a couple of images the book would do better.

I didn’t hate the book but I was disappointed with it. It had the potential to a really engaging and unique take on a classic story. I watched some of the TV show on Netflix and felt the same there too. It was interesting but engaging so I didn’t even bother to finish the season but at least I finished the book.

If you watched or read the book, what are your thoughts on them? Did you enjoy one and not the other? Or did you like/dislike them both?

Monstress, Vol. 4: The Chosen by Marjorie M. Liu

Are you ready for volume 5? It comes out on October 6, 2020.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 176 pages.
Read July 15, 2020 to July 21, 2020.

Well, at least I don’t have to wait long for the next volume in this awesome series as it looks like the fifth volume is set to come out next week. Perfect timing.

Maika, joined by Covin, is trying to reunite with Kippa. In this volume, you learn more about Kippa’s back story and to see that there is a lot more to Kippa than you first gathered. In looking for Kippa, Maika meets someone unexpected, someone, she never thought she’d meet that she has a personal connection with. The scheming that this particular individual has done while the impending war is building is alarming to Maika and needless to say, she isn’t overly thrilled about her connection to them. Maika is finally starting to get some of the answers that she seeks and as a reader, you are also starting to get a bigger picture of the issues that she is dealing with and the bigger scope of the war that is ready to implode.

Somehow things have managed to get even more convoluted in this volume than the last two and I really struggled to keep up with everything that was going on. I think a reread of the four volumes before tackling the fifth one will help me better grasp everything this time around. With that said, I still rated this volume high because the story and artwork are still immensely captivating even if I’m not sure of what was going on sometimes. Kippa’s story was the best section of this novel in my opinion as her character really became more dynamic in this volume and I’m looking forward to seeing how she continues to progress.

Overall, a great series and a must-read for any graphic novel lovers or fantasy lovers.