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Under the Pendulum Sun

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Catherine Helstone's brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon - but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

409 pages, Paperback

First published October 3, 2017

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About the author

Jeannette Ng

5 books306 followers
Jeannette Ng is originally from Hong Kong but now lives in Durham, UK. Her MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies fed into an interest in medieval and missionary theology. She runs live roleplay games and used to sell costumes for a living.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 693 reviews
Profile Image for Hannah.
585 reviews1,042 followers
November 27, 2017
I am conflicted. And as is customary in such cases here are my thoughts, first in listform and then more elaborated.

Wonderfully atmospheric
Convincingly gothic
Interesting world building

That super gross twist (mostly this).

I found the premise to be absolutely wonderful: Catherine Helstone is on her way to visit her brother Laon - a Reverend and missionary. When she arrives nothing it quite what it seems - the housekeeper is elusive, her brother is gone, and the place she finds herself in is different than she expected. So far it sounds like a number of gothic novels I have read - and the language fit that feeling perfectly. However, her brother is a missionary not in Africa or Asia but in the land of the Fae - Arcadia. The people he wants to safe are not people, but rather the fae.

I thought this central idea was done exceptionally well - I adored how the story mirrored similar stories but always added its own twist. I loved how truly gothic this book (and especially the first half) felt. The atmosphere is super convincing and the whole structure of the book is just stylistically brilliant.It is also predictable in the best way possible: as in, I figured things out just a bit before the protagonist and all the twists and turns made perfect sense in the wider world created here.

You can tell how much research went into this book and how much Jeannette Ng knows. This research was wonderfully included in the story itself and made this so much fun to read - for the most part.

However, there were several things that did not quite work for me. The book is very slow paced and felt thus much longer than its 400 pages. Normally I do not really mind slow-paced books but then the characters need to be convincing. And while I thought Catherine was for the most part a wonderful protagonist, I thought her brother was a bit of a charisma vaccuum. Which is why I thought the book worked much better when he was not on the page.

Finally, my main problem with this book is a very spoilery one. So, you have been warned: do not keep reading if you do not want to be spoiled.

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Angry Robot in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 4 books285 followers
March 28, 2022
The debut novel from Jeannette Ng, Under the Pendulum Sun, is a gothic masterpiece.

The plot centers on a Christian missionary, Laon, who has traveled to Arcadia, the mythical land of the fae. Laon's mission is to convert the fae to Christianity. But when he goes missing, his sister, Catherine, sails to Arcadia in search of her lost brother. The novel is told from Catherine's point of view as she learns the ways of Arcadia and attempts to find her brother.

Arcadia is a darkly weird land. The "Pendulum Sun" of the title is a swinging lantern in the sky which serves as the sun. In Arcadia, Catherine is effectively imprisoned in the castle Gethsemane, where she learns about Arcadia and the fae by reading the journal of the first Christian missionary sent to Arcadia and through her discussions with the keepers of the castle, especially Mister Benjamin, the only fae that Laon has successfully converted.

Jeannette Ng has written this novel in an authentic Victorian gothic style that becomes increasingly dark as the story progresses. She deals with issues of theology such as whether the fae as nonhumans are, in fact, saved by Jesus's divine grace. The plot itself is a slow, creepy, methodical build, ending with an unexpected twist very much in the style of gothic classics such as The Monk by Matthew Lewis.

Under the Pendulum Sun is unusually well written for a debut novel, especially without the backing of a major publisher. Ng has masterfully married Victorian gothic literature with a hauntingly strange and magical world. This book is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys gothic fiction or high fantasy with gray morality and thoughtful philosophical/psychological depth.
Profile Image for Stephen Robert Collins.
553 reviews46 followers
May 9, 2018
Six weeks ago I meet young woman in Darlington Waterstones I started talking as you do about books & she said you must try this young author From Durham City if like fantasy she said it was her best friend she wrote the He titled down,I ordered at the local Libuary & forgot all about till it came in
This is that book. The lesson here speak to strangers in book shops if they are buying books you have read.
This is a what if book.......
In 1843 Loan Helstone a missionary instead of going to deepest darkest Africa goes to Areadia the land of Fae a evil Godless world he hopes to convert the Fae to The Gospels good luck on that.
A Mirror of what missionary life was to the black men who got Christianity shoved down there throat in the 18th & 19th century the 'heathens' weather want it or not. The Fae do not. When Catherine his loving sister who tells the story arrives to Gethsemane a Rebecca style house in sister setting but Rev .Laon Helstone is missing.
This Ghotic Victorian style dark Magical Fantasy with evil Queen of the Fae who is Insane & gess who she is out hunting ?
Well I am very glad I went to Waterstones that day.
With poetry & Biblical quits about the use of salt upon meat & ghostly shadows, changelings, Mr Benjamin the gnome who is only convention to God this has an echo of "I wish I was in Manderley" that I keep hearing whispering in my head as I read it this corker of a creepy horror fantasy
Miss Davenport is lot like Mrs Danvers in Rebecca odd dark vile & then there is the Salamander the invisible house keeper who is in the shadows out of sight but there yet not. Hidden but not .
Then there is use of salt Which makes me feel sick as use little or no salt on food but here before eating you must salt food but not just meat ,fish, chicken but everything even wine , cakes,tarts or strawberries ugh ! Or you be turned or dead or both.
Two dark hidden secrets surprises you later in book ,Mab is The Fairy Queen from Milton 's Paradise Lost .
Ng has made a mistake when she says 'The Jewish Demon' The one in Faust but Jews have no hell they do not believe in the devil or Demons '. This was book I enjoyed for its Religions secrets & the sins with in.
155 reviews261 followers
November 22, 2017
“Saints have further to fall. This place breaks saints. But you and I,” I gave a grim smile, “we have nothing to fear.”
Ummm I'm not if I want to run around the streets with this book in my hand screaming 'UNDERRATED' and thrusting this book in hands of any willing person or buy every other copy of this novel which is ever printed and then steal Jeannette Ng's mind and then run away to a forest. Because damn this book is very very very underrated but it's not for everyone.

Under the Pendulum Sun is a dark, gruesome and eerie historical fantasy set up in Victorian Era. The author created a faeland known as Arcadia but kept us truly immersed in the mindset of victorian missionary. Some may find the thoughts of these missionaries appalling and some devoutees may agree with the missionaries' thoughts and perceptions. but they are not represented anything like that. Theological discussions between faes and missionaries is the main part of this book. For someone to truly enjoy this book, one had to keep aside their own views on Christian theology, whether negative or positive, and truly submerge themselves into the mind of Catherine Helstone.

Catherine Helstone's brother is a missionary who had gone to the land of fae, Arcadia. After recieving no news of his, Catherine decided to venture into this perilious land herself where only those who can truly get lost can go. Once she reaches Arcadia, she's met with Mrs Davenport who is changelling and is host of Laon, Catherine's brother, appointed by the ever cunning The Pale Queen. Miss Davenport take Catherine to Gethsemane, a strange and eerie castle in which her brother is residing. Upon reaching this strange place, she discovers her brother is not here and no one allows her to leave. So now Catherine is left to herself in an alien world to look into the mysterious castle with its many secret. Each day she discovers that Arcadia, with its pendulum sun and fish moon, is even stranger then anyone could ever imagine. As she discovers the diary of Reverand Roche, the former missionary toArcadia who died due to reasons unknown, Cathy realizes that truth is something that will truly break her apart.

The world woven here by author is truly a wonderful one. Each and every detail of the castle, of faes, of these strange animals and flowers everything was so vividly imagined. Arcadia has a pendulum sun that moves to one part of the land and then to another to complete one year cycle. The moon of this land is a giant fush that floats in the cloud.
The moon was a fish. Or rather, the moon dangled from a pole in front of a wide-jawed piscine. As it swam closer, I saw the light gleaming off its long, long teeth that curved from its lips. Its eyes bulged from its face, white, lidless and staring. Tail whipping back and forth, its scales shimmered, iridescent.
These are only two of many wonderful and strange things that Jeannette Ng introduced to us in this book. I wish I could explain each and every little detail of this world to you but I don't want to quote the whole book. But if you take a look on my reading updates, I've mentioned few of my favourite descriptions from this book. I hope they are enough to make anyone reading them pick this book up.

Under the Pendulum Sun, despise having rich world building, is not the fantasy of war and swords. It is rather a game of mental fuck played by the cunning Pale Queen. The whole story is concentrated in the castle of Gethsemane where our main character and her brother try to unfold the secrets and origin of Fae and Arcadia, about God and about soul. Sins of various sort is the main part of this book. It is the story of many twists and turns and the end result is satisfyingly mundane. Yes, mundane. But it was good kind of mundane and once you've read the whole book and then sit down for ten minutes thinking about the book, you would realize how perfect the conclusion was.

I've said it before, this book is creepy and explores various sort of sins explored so there is one thing I should give heads-up for and that is:

It's cruel, it's creepy, it's disturbing and it's very very interesting. Kind of the book you want to read again and again to truly appreciate its creepiness.

I have one tiny miny complain with the author. In her acknowledgements she said her next story would be slightly less creepy and I just want to say nooooo. Please Jeannette Ng, please don't write any less creepy stories. Write more creepy and haunting stories. More. Please.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 56 books7,647 followers
March 28, 2018
In which a pair of Victorian missionary siblings set out to convert the Fae to Christianity. This is a genius idea, colliding Victorian evangelical-colonial smugness with a world too strange and powerful for them to comprehend.

It's an odd book in some ways. The pacing is slow in the first half, as the location and characters are pretty static, and there's a lot of theology, in which it's very true to the earnest Victorian novels it riffs on. There's a great sense of creeping menace though, and as events accelerate we're really drawn in, both to the extraordinary and vivid world of the Fae, and to the British MCs' secret flaws and sins. A haunting read, and one that doesn't at all play out as you expect, which precisely suits the theme of the book. How satisfying.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
977 reviews1,092 followers
January 15, 2019
Stylish, richly imagined and lush with beautiful details… This might just be my favorite historical fantasy novel since “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell”, which is saying something. Also, that cover art is straight up amazing and I can’t stop looking at it.

The celebrated Captain Cook filled in many blanks on the world map during his perilous expeditions. But his final and most mysterious voyage took him to Arcadia, the land of the Fae; a continent that can only be accessed in the trickiest ways, and that is as similar to the world we are familiar with as it is different. And, naturally, the same way the Church sent brave missionaries all over the most exotic corners of the world in order to save the natives’ souls, a missionary has also been sent to bring the Gospels to the Fae. I mean, how can that possibly go wrong?... Laon Helstone is the latest missionary sent to Arcadia; when his very determined sister Catherine stops hearing from him, she decides to go find out what happened to him – while also being tasked to retrieve the precedent missionary’s journals and bring them back to England. When she gets to the strange manor house of Gethsemane, she realizes things are even more mysterious than they seemed at first. She is locked in a strange house with even stranger servants, none of whom will tell her where her brother is, or what fate his predecessor met. And when Laon finally joins her, it is only to announce the imminent visit of the Pale Queen of the Fae, Mab herself.

I love a good Gothic novel, and the surreal settings (I just love the idea of the titular pendulum sun - and fish moon!) and menacing characters truly begged for the full Victorian treatment; I think Jeannette Ng definitely did the genre justice in her own weird way. The classic tropes of creepy houses, dark secrets and shifty people are just perfect for a story about the Fae: I’ve always preferred the dark, uncensored fairy tales, where the mystical creatures are as clever and cruel as they are beautiful and fascinating, and this is exactly how they are portrayed here. Seen through Catherine’s eyes, this world is so alien, with its bizarre customs, duplicitous inhabitants and illogical architecture.

The idea of throwing theology in there was a really unique element that I was pleasantly surprised by. I grew up in a Catholic household, so I was very familiar with a lot of the names and concepts discussed, and I enjoyed the characters’ questions and debates. The Fae have a very interesting interpretation of some of the stories in the Gospels, and human attempts to explain those stories to creatures who look at the world is such a different way is a great way of framing the arguments. Ng has really done her homework there, and uses the idea of missionary work to explore the nature of human and Fae souls, the concept of sin, the cultural clash between the Puritanism of Victorian England vs. the wild laws of Arcadia.

The baroque world building is stunningly creative, but I must say that the cleverest part of it is the absolutely claustrophobic way Ng sets the story in the mysterious and labyrinthine house of Gethsemane. Indeed, like Catherine, we never really leave the house, except for the occasional walk in its gardens or strange chapels. This creates a great atmosphere of eerie paranoia and suffocation, especially as the strange nature of the Helstone siblings’ relationship comes to light, and as we untangle what happened to Laon’s predecessor, Reverend Roche. The infamous Queen of the Fae is as cruel and manipulative as one can hope just a grand character to be, and the game she plays with Catherine’s mind is simply perverse.

This book is a haunting and yet whimsical ride through a carefully imagined fairyland; and while the pacing can be a little uneven at times, and Laon suffers from a case of “I don’t get what the big deal is about you, guy”, this is a great read that should interest anyone who likes dark fairy tales and Brontë-style Gothic melodrama. 4 stars!
Profile Image for Chris.
720 reviews98 followers
August 9, 2021
"Two-thirds of the way through Shirley Caroline Helstone's eyes change from brown to blue. This is not an unparalleled phenomenon in a novel. In Shirley however it is unexpected, for here Charlotte Brontë is much occupied with the looks of her characters."
-- from the abstract to J M S Tompkins, 'Caroline Helstone's Eyes' Brontë Society Transactions Volume 14, 1961, Issue 1

I very much wanted to like this novel. Described as a 'gothic fantasy with a theological twist' Under a Pendulum Sun paraded a magnificent range of tropes and themes for our enjoyment, all centred around that staple Gothick cliché, the mysterious castle. In the 1840s Catherine Helstone travels from her native Yorkshire into the North Sea, en route to the realm that her missionary brother, Laon, has chosen to proselytise. This realm is called Arcadia, also known as the land of the Fae, what we now call fairies. But forget the little people with gauze-like wings from nursery tales, these are more altogether more mysterious, even sinister: and do they even have souls to save?

Jeanette Ng has, uniquely it seems, wedded together two unconnected themes, fairyland and theology, to produce a hybrid that's pregnant with possibilities. She's added into the mix the age-old British imperialist dream which in the 19th century sailed under the flags of free trade and converting heathens; she's then buttressed her narrative with faux extracts from 19th-century texts each prefacing a chapter. So far so intriguing. But then the more we hear of Catherine, the narrator of the story, her secretive brother, the changeling Ariel Davenport, the castle servants Benjamin Goodfellow and the housekeeper known as the Salamander, plus a rarely glimpsed woman in black, the more mysteries the plot reveals. That's all before we come to Mab, the Queen of the Fae, and her subjects.

I had high hopes for this unconventional fairytale set in a land with its own out-of-kilter cosmology (the sun really does swing from a Pendulum, and the moon, well, let's just say it's unexpected). That I wasn't entirely won over is not because of the multiplicity of themes -- which in fact was what most entertained me and kept me going -- but because of other really crucially important aspects of successful novel writing. Before I come to those negatives I want to apologise for the longer-than-usual digressions -- which I want now to pursue.

The author has structured her novel by dividing it into four parts, the first three each containing thirteen chapters, the last a mere four. Headed Gethsemane, Gilead, Golgotha and Gehenna, they seem -- as anyone even vaguely familiar with biblical names will realise -- to allude to increasing tribulation. Gethsemane is the name of the castle that the Reverend Helstone is based in, but to Catherine it is virtually a prison from which she rarely ventures. Little seems to happen, with Catherine constantly musing about the mysteries she always to be on the verge of solving, though for the reader the expectation is that there must be a final tying of plot strands.

It may be significant that the author runs live roleplay games, because that's the sense I was getting from the plot twists which mostly never quite resolved. The narrative arc of pretty much all fantasy RPG is very different from fiction. Yes, there is often a beginning where the player sets out as if on a quest or adventure, but the principle of 'interactivity' means outcome is not easily controlled. Interactivity apes real life scenarios in which outside agencies (such as other individuals and random events) affect the structuring of a narrative which we might otherwise expect a single author to control; and while generally working within constrained limits ('the rules') interactivity ensures each 'main protagonist' (as they see themselves) is not what they may actually be.

Catherine is not what she thinks she is. First, she is clearly an amalgamation of other fictional characters, for example Catherine Morland from Austen's Northanger Abbey and Caroline Helstone from Charlotte Brontë's Shirley. Caroline Helstone's change of eye colour from brown to blue (as the above quote informs us) echoes the theme of the changeling in Under a Pendulum Sun: a changeling traditionally is a seemingly flawed being secretly substituted by the fairies for a human child. Catherine and Laon are further modelled on the real-life Charlotte and her ill-fated brother Branwell Brontë, right down to the model soldiers and the imaginary countries they invented. (A former friend of Catherine's is Louisa March, another literary amalgam I guess, of Louisa May Alcott and her most famous creations, the March girls.)

The substituted changeling theme is paralleled by other motifs also emphasising ambiguity. There's the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the exact nature of the bread and wine that are said to become the body and blood of Christ. There's also constant reference to mirrors which reflect only a semblance of whoever stands in front of them, and also to automata which parrot the actions and appearances of human beings. Finally there are the other biblical allusions, to The Song of Solomon and the Jewish legend of Lilith, the alternative Eve, which hint at what final revelations we may be led to expect.

So, a potent mix of Old and New Testament theology and the Gothick genre; there are those nods to Charlotte Brontë and her siblings and other Romantic figures, and explicit references to John Dee's Enochian language; elsewhere the author acknowledges the influence of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; perhaps there's even an unconscious homage to Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Sphinx with its reference to the Death's Head hawkmoth; above all there's a firm grounding in the English fairy tradition, seen through the prism of Hieronymus Bosch's infernal visions.

All in all, this I should have found this right up my street; but I have to admit I found this a frustrating read. I can usually tell when I'm losing interest in a book if I'm checking how much further I have to go, and that was frequently the case here. It wasn't so much the slowness of the plot -- I can cope with that if the nature of the novel demands it -- it was more the confusing language, perhaps a product of lazy editing. Let me give you some examples.

In Chapter 32 we have the sentence, "Candlelight suffused the room, dancing overlapping shadows over the pages." Candlelight suffusing a room is alright, suggesting a slow, gradual spread of light like tea brewing in a cup, but the word "dancing" suggests something more vigorous and active, while the transitive use of the verb (the light leading the shadow in a dance, as it were) to me contradicts the suffusing. This conflict of metaphors could so easily have been resolved.

Chapter 37 opens with a passage including the following phrase: "What despicable cruelties the eyes in the well would plot upon us..." More disconnects here, I feel, as eyes don't plot, and it's not clear in which sense 'plot' is being used: is it making secret plans (as 'despicable cruelties implies) or a narrative (as "upon us" might suggest)? Chapter 39 has almost half a page of conversation after a character is given a brooch before this sentence: "Her voice trailed off and she pressed the sharp of it onto her thumb and a dot of red blood bloomed." I had a double take at this -- is the character's voice really that sharp? -- until I looked back to remind myself the brooch was meant.

In Chapter 42 another personage asks, "How else can I stealth into your dreams?" Now, 'stealth' is a noun and, while it's common to repurpose nouns as verbs, there's a perfectly good verb that means the same, and it's even shorter: it's steal. Is all this obtuse phraseology meant to disorientate us in what is after all a Gothic nightmare? If so, it succeeds, though I personally find it much too offputting a verbal tic.

Under a Pendulum Sun has a final revelation that reminds me of a theme in Thomas Mann's The Holy Sinner (from 1951, itself a modern rendition of the medieval epic Gregorius) and in Max Frisch's Andorra (a play I remember being involved in many years ago at university): the reveal alludes to a relationship which many readers of The Song of Solomon find uncomfortable. It's another example of the ambiguity that drives Jeannette Ng's novel, and it's an ambiguity that may also underlie whether the novel succeeds or not.
Profile Image for Samantha Shannon.
Author 21 books17.5k followers
November 9, 2018
A fresh and clever take on the ever-popular Fae, Under the Pendulum Sun is a twisted Gothic nightmare that has shot up there to become one of my favourite books of all time, and I do not say that lightly. The pitch – two Victorian missionaries attempting to convert Queen Mab and her Fae to Christianity – sounds almost too good to be true, but trust me, it more than lives up to it. You can tell Jeannette Ng has done meticulous research into this time period. Set in the eerie realm of Arcadia, her debut is chilling, thought-provoking, and imaginative. At the heart of Under the Pendulum Sun lies the age-old mystery of what the Fae are, why they exist, and whether or not their souls can be saved. No spoilers, but the resolution does not disappoint.

I was also impressed by the pendulum sun itself – not just for its creativity, but for its scientific accuracy, which Ng has written about here. This is an unmissable book, and I mean to evangelise about it.
Profile Image for Nicholas Perez.
353 reviews87 followers
June 24, 2021
3.95/5 stars.

In 1847, the same year Jane Eyre was published, the missionary Laon Helstone sets off for Arcadia, also called Elphane, the land of the fae. He goes after the Missionary Society loses contact with its previous missionary Reverend Roche. Catherine "Cathy" Helstone writes to her brother to fill his absence. But soon, the letters stop. And then Cathy heads for Arcadia herself. Once there, a changeling maid named Ariel Davenport takes her to the castle where Laon and the previous reverend preached from: Gethsemane. While waiting for Laon to return to the castle, Cathy encounters Mr. Benjamin, the fae who has converted to Christianity, and feels the eerie presence of the unseen housekeeper simply called the Salamander. However, Gethsemane's walls hold many more secrets, many terrible secrets. As Cathy tries to understand these secrets she is wedged between her brother's theological conflict and the daunting presence of one of Arcadia's most powerful rulers--Mab, the Pale Queen.

I have been wanting to read Under the Pendulum Sun for a while, not because its author, Jeannette Ng, is responsible for the proper decrying of John W. Campbell, but because the book mixes theology and Gothic fantasy. There is a lot of theology going on, from Bible quotes to certain modes of salvation and grace through the Protestant lineage (some references to Catholicism) to the discussion of the soul. The book is also a homage to the Gothic genre and its writers. Catherine Helstone is named for both Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and Caroline Helstone from Charlotte Brontë's Shirley--the latter is not considered Gothic, but there is still a lot of theology and psychological examination in it. Laon, in turn, is named after Percy Bysshe Shelley's titular protagonist of his poem Laon and Cythna, which was later republished under the title The Revolt Of Islam to avoid controversy. Laon is also inspired by both Mr. Rochester and St. John from Jane Eyre, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and the real life Lord Byron himself. The book uses plenty of tropes from Gothic fiction, some woven well into the story and others more so references for fans of such a genre.

Under the Pendulum Sun's ultimate questions and themes are how much are those so different to us able to be saved and if they have souls? How much do our sins define us and are we capable of redemption. It reminded me very much of Jo Walton's Lent, a novel that also blended speculative fiction with theology. Much like Lent, Under the Pendulum Sun has a very humanized depiction of religious persons. They are not overly prideful self-righteous, they are aware of their sins and want to be free from them. Yes, Laon and Cathy are missionaries who want to save the souls of the fae and the irrational world of Arcadia, unbounded by the laws of reality, confuse and torment them, but they are generally good people who are merely in a world they don't understand. Perhaps, this is a commentary on the missionaries who came along or shortly behind the colonists of the British Empire during this time period. In "heathen" lands they don't understand and don't try to understand and therefore often fail to obtain converts. Ng uses the symbolism and motifs very well, and I will comment more on that later.

As a story, Under the Pendulum Sun actually starts off pretty slowly. There is that slow gradual build-up that is so typical of classic Gothic novels. However, I believe it would be a bit more enjoyable if Cathy and Laon weren't so static in the beginning. They eventually do change, especially after certain things happen, but the pacing would've been more tolerable if more changes happened earlier. The prose is very readable and is an echo of the prose of the Gothic authors, but is still clearly Ng's own creation. Despite and in spite of all of this, when the story does pick up it keeps you going. The plots twist and revelations really do make you stop be like "Oh, God..." (Hah!) The world that Ng built for this story is wonderfully realized and it all supports the Gothic and theology in it.

As I said before, the story flourishes in Ng's usage of religious symbolism motifs. The fae are considered ontologically different than humans and some, like changelings, are said to not have souls and therefore outside of the scope of redemption and salvation. Laon is tested by the Pale Queen and her subjects as to whether he is even needed in Arcadia or if he can even succeed. Mr. Benjamin, the groundskeeper, is a genuinely devoted fae Christian; but he has questions. He questions why the Davidic lineage is pertinent to Jesus if Joseph is technically not his father--something I later realized was foreshadowing for another lineage--he wonders if he can truly help his fellow fae, and he wonders if a possible martyrdom can convince them. Cathy at one point discovers the journals of Reverend Roche where he wrote his theological musings. She discovers that someone else wrote in them, contradicting him, and she also discovers that Roche and his wife Elizabeth attempted to translate the Bible into Enochian, the language of the angels and also the fae. The more she studies Enochian though, the more her sanity comes into question. There is a subtextual employment of the Eucharist and the Catholic vs. Protestant debate about whether it is truly the body and blood of Christ. The reason this debate is brought up is reveal towards the novel's climax, but at the same time it mirrors the discussion about the fae and their souls. We learn that the Eucharist was important to Reverend Roche and, symbolically, another type of Eucharist is eventually gifted to Laon and Cathy to consume. I was delighted and engrossed by these discussions. Ng knows her stuff, she has a degree in it too, and she knew how a Victorian Anglican missionary would speak and believe.

The next part of this review will be under the spoiler because it discusses something major that I simply cannot just imply about, but is ultimately a plot twist. For those who do not wish to read that spoiler, I will say that it adds to burgeoning theme that the land of the fae is Hell.


Ultimately, the Pale Queen informs Laon and Cathy that Arcadia is Hell, because God's sight is not here. However, Cathy sees it as Hell because its souls have not been harrowed yet--another symbolism shown throughout the book. And this in the end gives her, and Laon and Mr. Benjamin, hope. The souls can be harrowed if given God's love.

All in all, it's a crazy, bizarre and thoughtful novel. My review cannot do it justice as I am gushing over the Gothic and theology. I cannot wait to see what Ng does next. The ending left me wanting more.
Profile Image for A.M. Steiner.
Author 4 books41 followers
January 27, 2020
This gothic tale is stylishly told; imaginative and full of wondrous imagery. In rich prose, it details the adventures of a young lady who enters the land of the fae in search of her brother, a missionary who has gone missing. The premise is great, and the language is lovely, but unfortunately, after a strong first three chapters, the story turns slight and painfully slow. It's also curiously devoid of any sense of conflict. The book seems to assume that in-depth theological conversations and an evocative 19th century fae setting will be enough to maintain interest for the average reader.

I'm not convinced. Despite having studied both Christian thought and British magic as part of my history degree, I found the unrelenting focus on those elements of the story to be too esoteric and academic to be enjoyable. It might have got away with it if the characters were more interesting, but I found them, and in particular the protagonist, to be dull. I suspect that this young author will go on to do great things, she's certainly capable of them, but I also suspect that many people will find this one to be a bit of a challenge.

Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.
Profile Image for lady h.
639 reviews182 followers
March 8, 2019
When I first finished this book, I commented here that I felt like I required an academic article in order to properly understand everything referenced. I am still convinced of that; this Kafkaesque novel is one of the most dense, erudite stories I've ever come across. The summary is, I think, a tad misleading, as it seems to hint at some sort of chase, but there is little to no movement at all in Under the Pendulum Sun. The novel takes place entirely in Gethsemane, a classic Gothic castle that perfectly captures the claustrophobia of traditional Gothic settings. And indeed, the influence of the Gothic literary tradition is blatant: from the Brontes to Udolpho, this book delights in paying homage to Gothic classics. Even the writing feels properly Victorian; the amount of research Jeannette Ng put into this book is evident in how realistic the writing and dialogue feel for the time period.

So, what does happen in this book? Well, not very much, which is part of the problem. We follow Catherine Helstone, who embarks on a voyage to Arcadia, the world of the fairies, in search of her brother Laon, who has gone to be a missionary. Upon her arrival in Gethsemane, however, she is surprised to find that Loan is not there, and as she waits for him, her frustration and tedium grow. These feelings are inevitably shared by the reader, as the meandering and slow pace of this Gothic novel unfolds. Eventually, Laon does arrive, and things become much more intriguing from then on, as I, personally, found Cathy and Laon's relationship fascinating. However, it's still very, very slow-paced, which, as interviews with Jeannette Ng reveal, was absolutely intentional in order to recreate an "aggressively Victorian" Gothic tone, complete with secrets, heavy mists, claustrophobia, confusion, and general weirdness.

Perhaps that's just as well, because the plot, such as it is, is not really the point here at all. Under the Pendulum Sun is a novel replete with theological underpinnings that touches heavily on colonialism, imperialism, and the morality of missionary work. As someone completely unfamiliar with Judeo-Christian mythology, many of the references flew completely over my head. I do think one can still enjoy the novel without this knowledge, but the experience will be much less rich. After all, our two main characters are a Victorian missionary and his sister, and unlike many neo-Victorian novels that seem to have simply inserted 21st-century characters into past settings, Cathy and Laon feel like actual Victorians, with their English decorum and religious sensibilities.

In addition to the various theological references and allusions there are also plenty of theological debates discussed, such as the meaning of souls, the actuality of transubstantiation, the parentage of Jesus, the question of Othering, and more. There is also, towards the end of the book when the reality of Arcadia is revealed, musings on the origin of God Himself. These musings wonder at the loneliness of God before his Creation and ponder whether God may have Himself been the last remnant of some inestimable race of beings, defined by mankind only by his one act of Creation. And why has God never again created? These particular musings had chills running down my spine.

This question of how far we understand our reality is a prominent thread running throughout the book. Cathy and Laon wonder if the fae are liars or selective truth-tellers, but the question is never truly answered. The fae queen Mab, after "revealing" the reality of the fae at the end of a masquerade, later tells Cathy that she hadn't revealed the truth at all, but only revealed another reality, another version of truth. It forces you, as the reader, to question every seeming truth that is revealed to you, which makes this a bit of a frustrating read.

I have to touch on the aspect of this novel that polarized readers, and I suppose this where this review heads a little into spoiler territory. So: Cathy and Laon's relationship descends into incest. This was probably the most compelling part of the book for me; I'm hugely drawn to consensual brother/sister incest (I already know I'm trash, don't @ me). Ng mentions that V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic, a Gothic family saga featuring incest, was a huge influence for her, and I have the same experience. I first read Flowers in the Attic when I was twelve or thirteen, at a largely turbulent and formative period of my life, and its effect on me was indelible. So almost immediately, from the sensual way Cathy described her brother, I could tell where this was heading, and I was delighted.

This revelation shed some light on Laon's character as the tortured Gothic hero with a drinking problem, as it becomes clear that Laon fled England in an attempt to escape his sister and his sin in desiring her. One of the reasons I'm so fascinated by the taboo of consensual incest is that, despite the horror it evokes in most people, it is ultimately an act that hurts no one at all, and so the question of why it is so taboo becomes a complex one. It's no less fascinating here, whereupon in the wake of murder, Laon's main concern is still his sinful desire for his sister. Watching him then attempt to reconcile his own sins with his identity as a missionary, a paragon of moral goodness, is incredibly satisfying. I really enjoyed his character, as I did Cathy's; they are both compelling and realistic, and any time they were together the scene was absolutely electric.

There is so much more I could say about this novel, which I found both maddeningly frustrating and achingly atmospheric. It's a complex, multilayered story that really deserves to be featured in some sort of academic publication for the sheer complexity and density of its intellectual underpinnings. It's also an utterly strange but masterful blending of neo-Victorian and secondary world fantasy, culminating in a book that is just plain odd; there is so much weirdness inherent in the story that at some point it becomes futile to try to understand it all. I haven't stopped thinking about it since I finished it, and I've been seeking out reviews and interviews in an attempt to break down its meanings. Though I only rated it four stars because I was frustrated by the (intentional) slow pace, length, and weirdness for the sake of weirdness, this is definitely a book that will stay with me for a long, long time. In fact, I don't think I will ever forget it, and I can only hope to one day write something this strange and sinister.
Profile Image for Rod Duncan.
Author 13 books215 followers
September 27, 2017
Some stories sell themselves in a sentence. I mean, Snakes on a Plane, right? You hear the title and you think, I’ve got to see that. I may hate myself afterwards. I probably will. But I need to know.

I had the same experience when I heard Marc Gascoigne last year describing a new acquisition by Angry Robot. “Nineteenth Century Christian missionaries travel to Arcadia to convert the Fae.”

A brilliant idea. Marc said he almost bought it on the strength of the pitch. But would the story live up to the promise? I got hold of an advance review copy to find out. Here’s what the publisher says about it:

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

There is a great imagination at work here. Jeannette layers her writing, ratcheting up the oppressive, Gothic atmosphere. Catherine is snared in half truths and lost in a maze of impossible architecture. But never completely. In spite of the constrictions, she finds ways to exert her own volition, her own personality. And because of that we find ourselves entirely on her side.

One of the things I really like about this story is the way the author balances fairy lore and Biblical beliefs. We may see the missionaries as naive and we will certainly think their colonial views are appalling. But they are not presented as ridiculous. That is a real achievement. Because of it, theological discussions between missionary and fae end up having a genuine dramatic heft.

Under the Pendulum Sun does live up to its fabulous pitch. A richly woven fantasy from a brilliant imagination. Definitely one for readers interested in fairy lore and Gothic fantasy.

Full disclosure: I received my copy of the book free. My own novels are put out by the same publisher, Angry Robot.
Profile Image for Allison Hurd.
Author 3 books676 followers
October 29, 2020
Time of death: 52%

So, nothing has happened, despite some great scenery and what I thought might be hints of things about to happen, and the twist is full on squicky and predictable. Let's also not forget the literal preaching and endless prattle about different theologians. Bleh.

Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books427 followers
May 10, 2022
“I had been taught to tame my wild impulses and desires that had agitated me to pain. I had folded it with my soul and learnt to drink contentment like you would a poison. Drop by drop, day by day. Until it became tolerable.”

So What’s It About?

Catherine Helstone's brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon - but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

What I Thought

A fun fact that probably explains a lot about who I am is that I’m named after Charlotte Brontë. Did I read through all of the sisters’ works chronologically in high school? Yes. Do I have extremely strong opinions about each sister’s taste in men and the quality of each TV/movie adaptation and how criminally underrated Anne is? YES. But this book made me realize that, in the grand scheme of things, I am nowhere near the world’s biggest Brontë stan - Jeannette Ng is miles ahead of me.

Catherine Helstone is named after a character in Shirley, for one thing, and so many of Laon and Cathy’s experiences growing up mirror the Brontës’ youths - the made-up worlds populated by toy soldiers and documented in tiny writing, the Yorkshire setting with a preacher father, the death of a sister and the alcoholic brother. And the scene where Cathy and Laon reunite in the mists outside of the manor is almost identical to Jane and Rochester’s first meeting in Jane Eyre. The fact that it’s a Victorian gothic romance (ha ha we’ll get to the romance part) with all of these details makes me certain that this book is, in many ways, a love letter to the Brontës, and I love that.

That being said, when I consider the book based on its own merits and not just my love for its inspiration, there are very clearly parts that work for me and parts that don’t. If you’re looking for an absolutely killer Gothic aesthetic with lots of beautiful, creepy, inventive descriptions of the Fae, this book has these things in spades. Some of the descriptions are absolutely fantastic, especially the descriptions of the masquerade party and Catherine’s stint of madness after touching the moths at the end of the book. The epigraphs are also generally excellent, being short samples of Victorian writing that fit the book’s themes or Fae-related content that Ng wrote herself in a really convincing Victorian style. The book asks some really interesting questions about theology through the character of Benjamin asking about whether the Fae have souls and what it truly means to believe.

I have mixed feelings about Catherine and Laon as Christian missionaries - there are some really interesting reflections from the Fae about how the British need to “other” people in order to have a solid sense of their own identity, and it’s kind of morbidly fascinating to see how easily they are manipulated by the Fae and how desperately they cling to their mission despite how obvious it is that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew. Somehow, though, the book ends with them optimistically planning to venture into wilder Arcadia to continue proselytizing. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to feel about this; if it’s supposed to be a good thing or not. At the very least it’s utterly bizarre that they hold any faith in themselves as missionaries anymore given that they’ve managed to convert one person over many years’ time and have already been manipulated by the Fae into a number of sins including killing people, committing incest and having premarital sex. On one hand you could definitely read this as a testament to the blind arrogance and hypocrisy of Victorian missionaries, but on the other hand my overall sense of the framing is that we’re supposed to see this as a great new adventure for them.

Then there are a few things that are just never explained or that I do not think the narrative explained sufficiently. We never learn how Elizabeth escapes from being chained up in the coal cellar to come to Cathy’s room, for one thing. And a few of Cathy’s decisions come out of left field to me - she is instantly, utterly convinced that she is a changeling with her justifications being incredibly unconvincing and flimsy to me; she doesn’t remember things from when she was a baby and feels out of place in Victorian society because of its sexist restrictions. Her decision to kill Miss Davenport also feels quite random - she says that she does it to spare her brother from doing it and therefore sinning, but then they go on to have premarital sex, which is also considered forbidden, isn’t it? There’s also a scene before the hunt where Mr. Benjamin is convinced that he is going to be hunted and gives good reasons for it, but then the prey turns out to be Miss Davenport and we never know why this is the case. Finally, Catherine’s reaction to killing an innocent woman is pretty strange - she spends a chapter or two catatonic about it but then she’s quickly back to bantering with her brother and exploring the sea whale corpse and barely thinks about Miss Davenport for the rest of the book.

I mentioned that we’d get to the topic of romance…most of the negative reviews I’ve seen for the book seem to be centrally concerned with the fact that Laon and Cathy Do Incest. I know that some people feel really strongly about this being unacceptable, but my strongest feeling about it is that it’s so strange and interesting that they convince themselves that it’s actually okay when they don’t believe they’re biologically related - they still grew up together and lived all of their lives as brother and sister. That being said, if incest is a big taboo, I’d definitely stay away from this one.

Another major complaint seems to be how much of the book is comprised of aesthetic and atmosphere while the plot unfolds incredibly slowly, and I can understand this. It didn’t bother me much for most of the book, but I did feel that everything with the sea whale was unnecessary, as well as their trip to the Goblin Market where they arrive and immediately leave after having one somewhat-relevant conversation.

At the end of the day, this remains a truly unique read and I can’t wait to see what else Ng’s imagination has in store for us. The rockier aspects might be negligible to others, especially those who love Fae and gothic atmospheres in their reads.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Edward Rathke.
Author 10 books125 followers
January 6, 2019
Sort of an odd book. I loved the first 100 pages, was still on board for the next hundred, but became less and less interested in the novel as it went. I probably should have quit during a big reveal towards the middle, but I kept going, only to find that reveal even dumber in retrospect.

See, this is a really difficult book to talk about without spoiling something, so I'm just going to use the spoiler tag and crack into it.

The other issues with the book are the mysteries that are meant to drive you onward, or at least drive the characters onward. It's all sort of interesting, but it felt underdeveloped, and the reveals that come at the end of unraveling this knot are ultimately kind of silly. Or, not silly, but not really worth the effort, I think.

The writing is, in general, very good here. Ng creates an atmosphere that breathes off the page. The utter strangeness of the fae lands is fascinating and definitely good enough to keep you pushing through even when much of the book begins to fall flat. And then there's Mr Benjamin, who is one of my favorite types of character.

But, yeah, had higher expectations for this novel given how much buzz it's received.

Would not recommend this, unfortunately. There is a lot of good writing in here, but the book as a whole is very, very dumb. Which is especially a shame because it was so close to being very brave, albeit icky.
Profile Image for imyril.
436 reviews59 followers
June 23, 2018
I've taken my time reading this because I've been sick and because the festive season can be more distracting than enabling. But I don't think this has done the book any harm - it's a bit like reading a snow globe, a magical, distracting, half-seen whirl of ideas and promises as its protagonist ventures into Faerie to find her brother the missionary and save the souls of the Fae. Needless to say, what she finds is not what she expects, but the book does wonders in giving you glimpses of the nightmare in a Faerie that is wrapped up in Gothic horror (no Victorian flower children here, it's all fangs and scales and blood and cruelty) and showing you the perseverance of love and hope.

It's also one of those books that I enjoyed the journey well enough without being completely sucked in until the final act, when I finally grasped what was in the snow globe (yes I'm sticking to my metaphor; no, there's not actually any snow globes in the book) and was utterly won over by the dark elegance and ambition of the piece. Bravo. I can't believe this is a debut novel.

Well worth a read, but it definitely won't be for everyone - it's slow, atmospheric, often ambiguous, religious, profane, and takes great joy in broken edges.

I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Full review
Profile Image for Jenna.
Author 9 books317 followers
December 10, 2020
Its closest antecedents are Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, especially the former, to whose narrative beats it holds up a twisted funhouse mirror and which it sometimes quotes almost-verbatim in its lampshading way; elements of Goblin Market and Tam Lin are also mixed in, together with some impressively original world-building drawn from Ng's own imagination. I would contend that Matthew Lewis's The Monk is also a direct ancestor, though. Not a book for kids or the faint of heart (it takes a theme or two that were arguably implicit in its Bronte forerunners and makes them explicit, extending them to taboo and disturbing conclusions), but still a smart, magnetic read for fantasy-inclined adults and a formidable debut.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,434 reviews180 followers
November 20, 2017
Beautifully written story of a pair of missionaries to Arcadia, with a (misguided, smug, arrogant) desire to convert the fae to Christianity. Reverend Laon Helstone has been in Arcadia for months, and his sister Catherine arrives in the land because she hasn't heard from him for a long time.
She's met by a changeling, Ariel Davenport, and taken to the home/castle where Loan has been staying. Catherine arrives and is then kept practically captive there, waiting for Laon. Catherine occupies herself going through the papers of the mysteriously vanished previous missionary to Arcadia.
There is not much action in this story; instead there are many theological discussions between Catherine and the groundskeeper, Laon's only convert, and many odd interactions between Catherine and Ariel, the changeling. When Laon returns, followed by Queen Mab and her court, there are more theological discussions. And a mysterious woman in black.
Beautiful prose fills this book, and a major detail that grossed me out. I found myself constantly putting the book down, though the prose and the heavy, claustrophobic, eerie atmosphere of the book kept bringing me back. And the book's cover is gorgeous.

5: writing
5: atmosphere and textures in the story
2: my lack of interest in the theological aspects of the story
4: discussions between Catherine and Mr. Benjamin
4: Catherine, Ariel and Mr. Benjamin
1: Laon. Boring!
2: detail that grossed me out
5: cover art

Total (avg): 4 stars
Profile Image for Maša.
629 reviews
July 26, 2018
Missionaries in a fairyland. Just reading this sentence gave me goosebumps. A brother and sister with an incestous vibe, in an omnious castle in the middle of the changing fog. Theological discussions with gnomes. Interesting, no? Eeh..

This is a book with a really interesting premise, dragging plot, and characters so mysterious you stop caring what happens to them.

The plot twists were surprising only to the characters, and the way some of the themes were handled was just... off. The emotions were described, but somehow I didn't really see them. Also, one who is so haunted by one's own murderous act would've react to other's suicide intents quite differently - not to mention the moot ending. If everyone doesn't care, why should I?
Profile Image for nat..
376 reviews182 followers
August 6, 2018
with a combination of Christian theology and fairy themes, here you find a world that feels more like a dream. almost claustrophobic with its strange creatures and fae politics. hauntingly beautiful and gothically atmospheric.

I honestly crave more
Profile Image for Sophia.
100 reviews21 followers
April 8, 2021
This meandering book won me over on its first pages. I have not read a book this specifically written for me in some time. (historical fantasy fiction, actually creepy fae, woman pacing the twisted corridors of a Gothic castle, Victorian missionaries, discussions of theology and commentary on colonialism, colonial imagination and the ethics of missionary work all in one book?) The second half was a MESS, both the pacing and *that twist*. Still, an instant favorite.
Profile Image for Andi C Buchanan.
Author 10 books36 followers
April 15, 2020
As someone with pet snails named Laon and Cythna I was predisposed to like this book. It surpassed my hopes. Nothing has affected my sleeping and waking worlds - and my inability to distinguish between the two - since that one Doctor Who story with neanderthals from Java. Under the Pendulum Sun is smart, rich, fantastically referential, and gloriously messed up. I would give it more than five stars if I could.
Profile Image for Rachel Noel.
201 reviews11 followers
August 2, 2019
*Free copy in exchange for an honest review.

Let me start out by saying: Holy wah. Holy wah! Holy WAH! This book was an amazing read! I can't remember the last time I was tempted to take a day off work just to finish a book! There were so many things to think about and work through! I generally highlight parts of a book that make me think, or to look up later, or that might be clues for the overall story. Usually I highlight just a few things overall. I swear I highlighted almost half the book just because there was so much that struck me!

You can tell Jeannette Ng has done the research on this. Not just because she has her Master's in Medieval and Renaissance studies (by the way this book takes place in 1800's) but also because of her mastery of the language. She uses the terminology these characters would have used in their time, in their place. My favorite part was that the Fae tell how long it takes to get somewhere, not with time or distance, but stories. For example, the Pale Queen commented to the Salamander that it had been too long since they'd last seen each other.
The Salamander bowed deep, her wet-seeming scales glistening. "It has been as long as it takes to tell a tale, neither long nor short."
And this really gives you an insight into the Fae mindset. If one doesn't measure time by seconds and minutes or distance in feet or meters, it really affects your interpretation of the world around you.

The best part, for me, is that everything ended up making perfect sense. When I got to the end of the book and saw the full scope of this story my jaw dropped in awe. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say that the Mastermind of it all has much more power, influence and insight than I had EVER thought to give them credit for! I was floored by how little I had comprehended! Don't get me wrong, the story's only told from Catherine's perspective, but still! I ended up falling into the same thought trap that she did and I almost never do that! I was so caught up in this story that I was unable to predict, unable to see, except as hindsight. IT WAS AWESOME!

I'll admit, the dark, gothic fantasy genre isn't for everyone. If you are interested in true fairy tales, like the original dark Brother's Grimm stuff, you'll probably like this. There's a lot of theology mixed with mythology that does such a wonderful job of tickling one's curiosity.

I am so in love with this book that I'm pre-ordering it (click the picture above to go to the book's page). I happily give this book 5 hoots and look forward to more books from Jeannette Ng!
Profile Image for Lobo.
588 reviews62 followers
March 10, 2022
Każdorazowo sięgnięcie po książkę było jak przeniesienie się do innego świata. Całkowite oderwanie od rzeczywistości. In Arcadia Ego, dosłownie.

Catherine Helstone udaje się do krainy wróżek w poszukiwaniu swojego brata - misjonarza, o którym słuch zaginął. Elpham, czy też Arkadia, jak nazywa się nowo odkryty kontynent zamieszkany przez Fae, skrywa wiele sekretów i nie jest bezpieczna dla ludzi. To jednak pomniejsze problemy w obliczu najważniejszego pytania - czy wróżki mają duszę? Czy mogą być zbawione? Czy praca misyjna w Arkadii ma sens?A jeśli odpowiedzi są negatywne, to czym jest Arkadia i jak jej mieszkańcy sytuujący się w chrześcijańskim obrazie świata?

Koncepcja jest prosta, a jednocześnie bardzo ciekawa - potraktowanie krainy wróżek i elfów jak kolejnego kawałka lądu odkrytego przez Brytanię w dobie imperializmu i kolonializmu. Najważniejsze kwestie to nawiązanie kontaktów handlowych oraz chrystianizacja. Jak jednak nawracać wróżki? To teologiczny absurd rodem ze scholastycznych dywagacji o tym, ile diabłów mieści się na główce od szpilki. A jednak, nie jest to odległe od kolonialnych rozważań czy ludy podbite Afryki i Indii mają dusze. Bo dla Brytyjczyków byli tak samo obcy jak wróżki.

Tak naprawdę powieść tworzy wykonanie: mnogość kontekstów, dbałość o szczegóły, dogłębna znajomość tekstów źródłowych. Ng powołuje do istnienia pełnowymiarowy, barwny i skomplikowany świat. Odkrywanie go wraz z każdą stroną to prawdziwa przygoda.

Oczywiście jest gotycka otoczka zamku na pustkowiu, ale o dziwo jarało mnie to o wiele mniej niż teologiczny wątek powieści. Może dlatego, że poza Catherine (i Mab) żadna postać nie jest pociągająca? Piję do Laona, oczywiście. Jest płaski i miałki. Więc. Mniej gotyckich transgresji seksualnych, więc o kosmogonii tego świata, bo to ma silny vibe "Lycyfera" Carreya, co bardzo doceniam.
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 11 books30 followers
April 25, 2018
Umm, wow.

This might be the strangest book I've ever read.

I wasn't sure I even liked it until about pg 342. Up until then, I'd been reveling in the world-building, but put off by the plot and MC. Not the whole plot, just the spoilery part that gave me the ewws. Not the whole MC, but the droopy and oh woe is me bits required for gothic drama.

But, the spoilery ick turned out to be necessary, as I hoped it would, and all was well under heaven and hell. I am a convert.

Super points to the author for every theological reference in this book. It was like meat to my starved mind. The line about God being a survivor freaking blew me out of the sea. I stopped dead. Seriously, you write another theological fantasy, and I am all yours. Take my money.

Profile Image for kari.
608 reviews
October 14, 2017
Eerie, frightening, and cleverly written. Starts with a slow narrative of a Victorian novel to surprise and dazzle with plot twists. I've been yelling about the book on Twitter and telling my friends to read it - I want to discuss it all, the hints and references, the disturbing imagery and emotional impact, and just collectively squee about HOW GOOD it is.
Profile Image for Maria.
531 reviews40 followers
July 29, 2021
видно, что автор провела большой, сложный ресеч, но господи, что ж так скучно-то, а? страница за страницей ничего не происходит, зато полно фантасмагории и драматических страданий. отдельно не впечатлила "разгадка" - ну то есть, всё это нагнетание было для того, чтобы выяснить, что

но это конечно потянуло бы на 2 звезды, если бы не кринжовый твист посреди книги. я что-то не была к нему готова, и если б знала, не стала бы читать. особенно потрясли в этом месте рассуждения героев и готовность поверить любой херне без доказательств:

тот самый момент, когда апокрифы изучить хватило сил, а логику продумать не особо
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,000 reviews796 followers
December 2, 2021
i honestly wouldn't have read this book if i'd known it was about incest. like i get it's abt religion & sin but who wants to be reading a brother & sister having sex? not me!

CWs: incest
Profile Image for v.
50 reviews6 followers
November 27, 2022
Stilted writing that circled back on itself time and time again, pretending at foreshadowing, I suppose. Dialogue faded in and out of being period-appropriate and no one had a defined character. Having otherworldly characters speak in confusing verse doesn't make for an intriguing touch of supernatural if all their words gesture at nothing. Little grasp on how to effectively raise the stakes or how to pace a plot.

Some truly interesting worldbuilding ideas, but none of it really compellingly executed. From the more generous comments, I expected competent-at-least writing and a more incisive or nuanced take on the concept or act of being a missionary. Instead what little this book has to offer is nothing more than an overdrawn and empty 'love story' that is, to put it very lightly, not my cup of tea. Plenty of research, but little introspection. All of this might be excused if the book was fun or even quick to read, but I think you can tell it is not.

The cover is gorgeous though, so there's that.
August 11, 2019
Content Warnings: Incest and body horror.

This is such a strange book. The basic premise is that the Sister of one of the first missionaries to the fae land of Arcadia goes to find her absent brother. She finds a delightfully dark and bizarre world with an ancient crumbling house and a inhuman queen. It has an incredible and rich gothic religious atmosphere.

However, and don’t read on if you don’t like spoilers...

A large part of the plot revolves around incest. It’s a common plot device in these kinds of stories ie. Crimson Peak, and often is used to add another layer of confusion and creepiness. I give a trigger warning for it, however, as it’s not an easy read for that reason and to warn other readers.

All in all a dark and twisted gothic fantasy with an incredibly rich lore and world building.
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