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Summer in Orcus

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,448 ratings  ·  228 reviews
When the witch Baba Yaga walks her house into the backyard, eleven-year-old Summer enters into a bargain for her heart’s desire. Her search will take her to the strange, surreal world of Orcus, where birds talk, women change their shape, and frogs sometimes grow on trees. But underneath the whimsy of Orcus lies a persistent darkness, and Summer finds herself hunted by the ...more
Paperback, Kickstarter softcover edition, 264 pages
Published 2016 by Sofawolf Press, Inc.
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Average rating 4.51  · 
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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
All the stars!! One reviewer described this award-nominated novel as "Narnia with teeth," and that's a great summary. I had so much fun reading this portal fantasy! Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Summer is a young girl whose overly protective, clingy mother tries to protect her from every possible danger, although Summer is allowed to read books about magic and shapechanging and such. (“Summer’s mother believed that books were safe things that kept you inside, which only shows how lit
Lois Bujold
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy readers of all ages

Continuing my T. Kingfisher binge-read this week. Both a portal fantasy and a commentary on same. Summer, an eleven-year-old girl, escapes her overprotective and somewhat mentally ill mother through the ambiguous help of Baba Yaga, to a peculiar quest in a fantasy world that allows her to both discover and learn her strengths. (I just typo'd that, "earn her strengths". That, too.)

Somewhere, I made the observation that the ur-theme of books for the young, or at least for adolescents, is empowerme
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy readers, readers who were once almost twelve years old
“It would be a good day for the world if I could not find a child who knew terrible adult things. But I will be a great deal older before that day comes, I think.”
Not quite a beginning quote but it may be why so many rightly say this is a middle-school portal fantasy for adults, though it is equally an adult portal fantasy for those middle-schoolers comfortable in classic adult fantasy (I know you're out there, lurking on GR: I was once you).

T.Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) is a rare author. Sh
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Summer stumbles upon Baba Yaga's Chicken feet house and asks for her heart's desire, Baba Yaga says she must find it for herself. What Summer doesn't know is that she'll be going on an adventure she'll never forget. Will she be able to find her heart's desire and go home? Read on and find out for yourself.

This was a pretty good fantasy story that I read for free at this website: . If you enjoy stories like this, definitely check it out for yourself a
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Were-house! Bwahah!
But don't let the humor lull you -- this isn't a fluffy book. Like Glorious, it has teeth.
Also rotting slime and bugs that grow inside people and other nasty stuff.
Read it anyway!

I don't know how other writers do it, but I'm constantly coming up with weird little tidbits that don't fit in what I'm currently working on. Images, vignettes, chunks of mini-story... Sometimes all I have is a single phrase...
These ideas pile up.

Thank you! It's relief to know other people do this.
Sigrid Ellis
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-fantasy
This is for everyone who hasn't forgiven Aslan, or Glinda, but understands now what was really happening.

Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the reason I was late to work one day. I couldn’t stop reading. While brushing my teeth, while combing my hair, when I should have been getting into my work clothes, when I should have been driving to work, I was sitting on the couch, reading this.

Do NOT start this if you don’t have the time to devote to it. You will find that work and bathing aren’t that important at all.

I love this author, her ability to write is a woven spell around the reader. 5, I am now buying everything she
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. T. Kingfisher has a knack for seeing right to the heart of things, whatever genre and subject she is writing in. Reading her books feels like brushing up against a knowledgeable, compassionate, and intensely curious mind that knows about insect metamorphosis as well as riparian plants, sourdough as well as the philosophical mindset of dogs, codependency as well as fairy tales. I've liked many of her books, but Summer in Orcus is the first one I've loved.

On the face of it, it's a midd
Rachel (Kalanadi)
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
3.5 stars. I enjoyed the ending the most - it's a portal fantasy, but upends some of the cliches. I do feel like this was a bit choppier in its elements than other Kingfisher/Vernon stories I've read, but still enjoyable. ...more
Megan Baxter
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure how I came to read Castle Hangnail a year or two ago, but I do know that I've been recommending it to everyone I know with children, and quite a few adults, ever since. It was just so thoroughly delightful, with wonderful turns of phrase and good-hearted messages at the core of the story of a young girl taking over an evil castle and installing herself as the new evil sorceress in town.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforc
I hardly know how to explain why I adored this book so much. I enjoyed it right from the start, but by the end it had carved itself a permanent place in my heart. For starters, I love portal fantasies that really engage with the personal consequences of visiting a different world, and Summer in Orcus does that beautifully, exploring Summer’s changing self-perception and asking what will be different for her once she returns home. I love that Summer’s genre-savviness – born of a life where readin ...more
So far my least favourite T. Kingfisher book. The reason why this book didn't work for me is just a big personal preference thing, so keep that in mind.

Summer in Orcus is a portal fantasy book that reads a lot younger than T. Kingfisher's other books. During the first half I was wondering why she didn't publish this as Ursula Vernon, T. Kingfisher being the name she uses for adult fiction. With time I did realize that the 11-year-old protagonist would probably have been more hopeful and action-r
I was a little disappointed in this one. I was expecting an adult-oriented book, which is what this one seemed to be marketed as and was more in line with how I understood Ms. Kingfisher uses her pen names. And I can kind of see where the author is coming from, in terms of subjects that aren't appealing to the typical middle grader. However, in terms of depth and writing style and such, it's still very much a middle grade novel despite the scattering of adult viewpoints.

And while she does ignore
katayoun Masoodi
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
it probably, maybe wasn't perfect. but i loved every moment of reading the story, loved the people in it and most definitely loved summer and how she worked and thought and was ordinary in an extra ordinary way. would highly recommend to all my friends. ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great beginnings and decent end, just wish the middle had been reduced.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Summer in Orcus is just lovely; a portal fantasy with something of the whimsy and warmth of Valente’s Fairyland, and likely to appeal to a similar audience. Some of the characters could’ve come straight from Fairyland, in the best possible way: Reginald the society hoopoe, with his Regency slang; Glorious the were-house, who is a wolf during the day and a house by night; Boarskin, Deerskin and Bearskin, who warn Summer of the cancer at the heart of the world; even the Frog Tree and its dryad.

Jennifer Linsky
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading a book by T. Kingfisher is like taking a stroll in the countryside with an amiable and pleasant local guide. You amble along, and the terrain changes, and then you're in agricultural fields, and this one is corn, but the corn is a deep violet color, and then a green monkey leaps from the corn and slaps you across the face.

And you nod sagely, because your guide has led you there, and of course the corn is violet, and of course there are face-slapping monkeys living there, and how could yo
Peter Tillman
Entertaining, but definitely YA, perhaps even pre-teen level (MC is not quite 12). Not what I was expecting, but the price is right.... On hiatus for the moment.

Two months later, little recall of the start, and no desire to continue. DNF, and unrated.
Heather Jones
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I’m coming to the conclusion that when at all possible I should read episodically-written stories in the fashion intended rather than consuming them as if a continuous novel. I loved this portal fantasy of an over-protected girl granted her heart’s desire: to go on adventures. And what adventures! A quest with a mystery and an over-arching peril that turns out to be very different from what all the story tropes set you up to believe. But the reading felt a bit jerky, as each chapter resolves to ...more
Berni Phillips
I was slightly disappointed in this one. I've read most of her other works written as T. Kingfisher as well as Digger, Castle Hangnail, and the Harriet Hamster books written under her own name. Those all have a quality that this one didn't have so much. This book is not bad - it's still very good - I just don't think it's the best representation of her work.

What I like best of Kingfisher/Vernon is her everywoman, common sense approach to being a figure in a fantasy novel. Her heroines are genera
Brigid Keely
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, is an utterly fantastic author whether she's writing for kids, teens, or adults. I'm always excited to buy one of her books, even if I don't know anything about them. I've never been let down. "Summer in Orcus," which features Baba Yaga and Quests and Shape Shifting Women and Adventure and Dapper Birds, and that special subtle form of child abuse that most people don't recognize as abuse. And puns! Oh lord the puns. Including the title which I didn't realize was ...more
K.J. Charles
In which I continue my T Kingfisher binge. What a lovely story. Classic portal fantasy where a child goes to another world, with a number of the kind of twists in perspective at which Kingfisher excels, including the skills by which Summer saves the day. Absurd and fantastical and wildly imaginative. Author apparently wrote this as a prophylactic against the real-world awfulness of 2016, and it pretty much works.
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult, fantasy
Cute portal adventure fantasy story. I can see why some reviews think it's a bit slow in the middle because it can feel a bit like moving from plot point to plot point, but I enjoyed the characters a lot so it didn't bother me. Really liked Summer--she's not super brave or a kick ass fighter. She's kind and resourceful and vulnerable without being utterly helpless. I love Kingfisher/Vernon's way of handling humor in writing; the perfect mix of silly and witty. Summer's self-deprecating good humo ...more
Mar 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, as all Vernon books are.
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sweet, nuanced, and a ton of fun. This is a book for everyone who wonders if I would have had what it took to get through Narnia.
I enjoyed this a lot.
Summer is 11 and dreaming of escaping her mother's anxiety when a house with chicken legs parks itself in front of hers. After impressing Baba Yaga, Baba sends her to Orcus, a fantasy land with talking animals and dying trees, to find her heart's desire.

Summer is a lovable protagonist, and I loved her companion the weasel. While the plot did meander quite often and I found Summer to be too perfect (she has 0 flaws), this middle grade novel would make a nice read for any middle grade fantasy lov
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love portal fantasies. I’ve loved them for as long as I can remember, from Narnia to Oz to Wonderland to Amber and even for a brief moment Xanth, I have loved stories of someone from this mundane world transported to a world full of magic and wonder. Summer in Orcus is an offering in this category from T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, and it is marvelous. The best I can describe it is a middlegrade fantasy for adults, and much like Catherynne Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland i ...more
MB (What she read)
3.5 stars. Very creative and great turns of phrase and dialogue throughout. Unusual use of Regency cant made it fun for this Heyer fan. No romance in this one, just lots of friendship.

If you like Gaiman's "Stardust" or "Neverwhere" or Valente's (sp?) "The Girl who..." series, this may be to your taste.
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Into the Forest: Summer in Orcus spoilers allowed 3 13 Jun 20, 2018 08:04PM  
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T. Kingfisher is the vaguely absurd pen-name of Ursula Vernon. In another life, she writes children's books and weird comics, and has won the Hugo, Sequoyah, and Ursa Major awards, as well as a half-dozen Junior Library Guild selections.

This is the name she uses when writing things for grown-ups.

When she is not writing, she is probably out in the garden, trying to make eye contact with butterflies

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