An ambitious, quirky, time-folding yarn.

TIME SHELTER

A clinic invites Europeans to live in the past, with all the comforts and perils that doing so brings.

The unnamed narrator of Bulgarian author Gospodinov’s third novel translated into English has stumbled into the orbit of Gaustine, who’s opened a facility in Zurich for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia—“those who already are living solely in the present of their past,” as he puts it. Memory care is a legitimate treatment for such patients, but Gospodinov’s digressive, philosophical novel is less a work of realist literature than an allegory about the perils of looking backward and attempting to make Switzerland (or Sweden or Germany...) great again. As the popularity of the clinic expands—with different floors dedicated to different decades of the 20th century—the narrator alternates between sketches of various patients and ruminations about modern European history (particularly that of his native Bulgaria) and how time is treated by authors like Thomas Mann, W.H. Auden, and Homer. Eventually, the novel expands into a kind of dark satire of nostalgia and patriotism as more clinics emerge and various European countries hold referendums to decide which point in time it wishes to live in. (France picks the 1980s; Switzerland, forever neutral, votes to live in the day of the referendum.) But, of course, attempting to live in the past doesn’t mean you can stay there. Though the story at times meanders, translator Rodel keeps the narrator’s wry voice consistent. And in its brisker latter chapters, the story achieves a pleasurably Borges-ian strangeness while sending a warning signal about how memory can be glitch-y and dangerous. As Gaustine puts it: “The more a society forgets, the more someone produces, sells, and fills the freed-up niches with ersatz-memory.”

An ambitious, quirky, time-folding yarn.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-324-09095-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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