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The Border Keeper

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  260 ratings  ·  68 reviews
"Beautifully and vividly imagined. Eerie, lovely, and surreal"—Ann Leckie

"Lush prose weaves around a dark heart in this twisty debut from Kerstin Hall. A fantastical wonder on every page, but one coated in blood, death and suffering.”—JY Yang

She lived where the railway tracks met the saltpan, on the Ahri side of the shadowline. In the old days, when people still talked
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 16th 2019 by
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Average rating 3.91  · 
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 ·  260 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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Amy Imogene Reads
This is the kind of story that I love. It’s lingering, it’s mythic, and it leaves you on the edge of a conclusion. The story of traveling to the afterlife with a guide, but with such an interesting edge.

Execution: 1/2
Pacing: 1/2

The Border Keeper opens with a landscape. A tiny house lies on the horizon of a desolate, completely empty desert. There is a low fence stretching across the world behind the house—it extends beyond all eyesight in either direction, and it leaves no
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A stunningly good novella - I would have happily read a full-length novel set in this world, but the economy of storytelling here is its own little miracle. It’s a dark, weird, sweet fantasy that gestures toward a much larger universe without beating you to death with worldbuilding.
K.J. Charles
Weird and lyrically written fantasy with a lot of world building and characters and backstory and plot packed into novella length. I never quite connected emotionally with this one--the POV character is keeping secrets from himself and other characters and the readers, which added to the decision to go in media res rather than exposition made it feel a bit distant to me. Beautiful writing and lots of great ideas.
Austine (NovelKnight)
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-releases
Check out the original review and more on NovelKnight!
This book was provided by the publisher (via NetGalley). This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ReadingThe Border Keeperwas a trip. I honestly had no clue what to expect and even while reading I wasn't quite sure where the story was going.

Imagine the mortal world and the multi-world-verse of gods and demons. And the only thing standing between the two is one woman -- the Border Keeper. Yet, this wasn't
Sheena ☆ Oh, the Sheenanigans!

The pages flawlessly flowed with the authors writing style that immediately immersed me into this fantasy world she was able to create that was filled with mortals, gods, demons and other unworldly creatures. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough and before I knew it, this magnificent read was over. It was such an easy fun read that left me wanting more and despite the fact that I thought it ended too soon, the novel was engaging enough to engulfed any reader into the story of Vasethe and
Jun 13, 2018 marked it as to-read-so-bad-it-hurts  ·  review of another edition
'It's a twisty kind of story, and no one is quite what they seem. Thematically, it has a lot to do with ideas of healing and justice, but there are also pretty demons with long hair and an exceedingly grumpy genocidal witch.'


This isn't quite the romp through a fantastical underworld I had in mind (as in, not as fast-paced or as rich in detail as I'd imagined), but you know when you read or watch or play something that gives you this inexplicable yet pleasant vibe and it just kind of sticks with you for the rest of the day? Yeah, that's this book.

The worldbuilding is really where the story shines--a mix of weird horror and your typical fantasy fare. You get demon-god politics, crab children, and horrific and
Emma Laubscher
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing

I mean who doesn't wanna traverse the nine-hundred and ninety-nine demon realms of the with a murderous god-like snarky-ass witch?

"This is mine now; begone fools".

I love her. I can't decide if I wanna hang out or if I would be too frightened of her genocidal ways. Vasethe is a brave man.

Engrossing characters, tightly wound plot, exceptional world-building, luscious prose. I could go on....

In fact I will go on...

Real treasures in the book include the way
Tawnie Mizer
This weird little twisty novella immediately jumped up to the top of my to read list when I saw someone advertise it on twitter and took my breath away.

It follows a man named Vasethe who journeys to seek help from a woman named Eres who is not what she seems. Cause you see, she is the border keeper the guardian between his world and the 999 realms of Mkalis, where demons and gods wage endless war. With her aid, he crosses over for a purpose which at first is unclear but is soon revealed.
Sachin Dev
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is special, in that it's like nothing I have read before. It's wildly original and Kerstin Hall is definitely one of the exceptional talents to watch out for. I was left a bit dry with that abrupt ending but overall I thought The Border Keeper is a beautiful, intriguing lyrical fantasy novel that fiddles with your concepts of death and life, takes you to some amazing worlds and realms. Detailed review closer to release!
A fast-paced fantasy debut. Hall's descriptive language and plot that draws on various mythologies creates a vivid world of lost souls and revenge.
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was so good and hard to put down!

Imagine a world where you can travel to another realm if you know the right people but also have to be very careful because the realms have very strict rules that can have dire consequences if broken.

Vasethe is one of those travelers who has his own reasons for wanting to travel to another realm. He meets The Border Keeper who he calls Eris, a very powerful woman that has had many reincarnations but has chosen within the last few centuries to mostly
J.A. Ironside
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many thanks to for mailing me an ARC

I am quietly amazed at the huge world and the scope of the story which Hall managed to fit in such a small space without it ever feeling forced. This is a huge story about love and loss and redemption that spans life and death, and multiple other dimensions too. If I were to liken it to anything, I would say it's something like taking a stroll through the third panel of Hironymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. It's twisty and complicated, and
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
It took me embarrassingly long to finish this. But that's not any fault of this novella because it was very atmospheric and enjoyable. In fact, the stretched out reading period might even have added to the story's vast feel. It takes you in and out of so many different realms and when you go through it slowly, it expands even more, if that's possible. I love liminal stories. I enjoy portal fantasies very much. Something about the sad tinge of this novella made it stand out from the others. I ...more
Rick Brose
The Border Keeper has a lot going for it. Kerstin Hall has created a cool world filled with depth and interesting characters. There is a strong sense of history related to both the world itself and the relationships between the characters. Several reveals within the novella caught me pleasantly by surprise. However, there were other times where I felt lost in the plot and the characters; feeling like I was missing out on key details. Despite that experience, I would still be happy to dive back ...more
Oct 18, 2019 added it
Shelves: book-club
Review to follow when the rest of the book club have finished :)
Aneta Tu
Oct 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an imaginative gem! Turns out, one can build rich and satisfying world without the need for writing 15 books each 900 pages long ;)
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I've been sitting with this story for a day, I read it yesterday while commuting for work throughout the day, having only now decided to sit down to review it. As I review this I'm watching a family of House Finches shake off the recent rains at my feeders while wishing someone would come to clean my house at my me as Vasethe does.

The atmosphere of the book is steeped in its own smoky lore and I as I often say wanted to stay in this world, to go on my own tour with the Border Keeper herself and

Jul 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was weird but phenomenal I still have no idea what's happening.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Set on the border of the real world (albeit not one we know) and in various alternate realms, the relationship between Eris - or whatever name she's known by - and Sethe ebbs and flows depending on what world they're in and how Eris feels about things. There are rules they must live by in all worlds, usually stated when entering a new realm, and many realms rulers (or claimant) are vying for control of all Mklais with shifting alliances and loyalties. There's also a question of whether the ...more
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Border Keeper
Author: Kerstin Hall
Publisher: Book
Publishing Date: 2019
Pgs: 237
Dewey: F HAL
Disposition: Irving Public Library - South Campus - Irving, TX

At the border between worlds, a railway track ends and a desert begins stretching away into shadow. A man with a troubled past comes here seeking help from the Border Keeper to find someone beyond the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms where the gods and
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novella, fantasy
An enjoyable and briskly paced story that interweaves intriguing world building with dramatic development. I do wish it were just a bit longer, since the setting could certainly support a bit more exploration; and though I like the quick pace, it breaks down a bit near the end, trying to cram in just a bit too much revelation and resolution in not enough space, and lacking sufficient denouement for my taste. Still an excellent read though.

A few other points:

-- I don't like the cover art. Looking
John Rennie
This book is written in a slightly obscure style, that is things happen for reasons that are not immediately clear to the reader. This style can work very well and add interest to the book. For example Caitlin Kiernan tends to write this way, and indeed I wonder if Kerstin Hall has read and been influenced by Kiernan's books. The problem comes when the obscurity gets in the way of the story. If you find yourself being stopped abruptly and wondering what the hell is going on then I find that ...more
J. Agnomen
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a delightful novel. I recommend it to anyone that loves cosmos-level fantasy worldbuilding.

The only thing keeping it away from a true 5th star is the intense keep-away style of revelation. The characters always know more than we do, so it felt like watching the second half of a TV show. Because of this, many of the climactic moments fail to land effectively. There's a reason for that narrative style, so it wasn't an enormous detractor. It was just enough to occasionally fan away the
A man journeys to the distant home of the women who guards the border between worlds to beg her aid. This reminds me of early supernatural and weird travelogue narratives, like Hodgson's The House on the Borderland or Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, where the protagonist wanders in and out of a fantastical foreign world: a vague questing narrative (vague here because character motivations are withheld until the book's midpoint) and repetitious, visual-heavy descriptions which are ...more
Mark Redman
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The Border Keeper is a novella that packs a hell of a lot of story and plot into 150 pages. It very much reminded me of Lovecraft’s Dreamquest of the Unknown Kadath.

Vasethe is a man with a troubled past, he comes to seek a favour from a woman who is not what she seems and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.

The Border Keeper spins wonders both epic—the Byzantine bureaucracy of hundreds of demon realms,
Geert Van Der Veen
I loved it. I ate it. Very well written, great atmosphere, strong female and male characters, its been some time since a Book gripped me in its claws like this and would not let me go. One point of criticism - the writer implies that there is a bigger Story - there is a lot of stuff happening ( or has happened already) and us readers often dont know enough to make sufficient sense of stuff. We are thrown into the middle of it all and are spoonfed some details of intrigue here and some gossip ...more
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
I ... I don't know how to rate this book. I liked it, but I still have no idea what was really going on. Who are these characters, really? Why are they not who they seem to be at the beginning and how did they get this way? Why isn't any of this explained in at least *some* detail? I very much enjoyed the world and would like to explore more of it and learn the details.

I like a good twist/reveal as much as anyone, but not when there are so many and they aren't totally revealed anyway, leaving
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this novella and I think I'll probably read it again just to really take in all the imagery and world building. Every character seemed important and that really works in a novella. Yes there were unanswered questions and I would have loved to read a full length novel set in that world but I overall felt satisfied by the ending which is why I still gave the book 5 stars. The world created was fantastic and foreign and interesting and intriguing and I wanted to know about ...more
Sarah B
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book did not interested me too much.. I think it had too much stuff similar to court intrigue and politics for me. Throughout the entire book I felt somewhat lost and confused as to what was going on or perhaps why it was going on would be a more accurate... I think it was trying to hold back as to surprise the reader at the end but at the end I really didn't care.

I picked this book up because it was about demons and I had hoped it might be a little bit scary? But it was a sort of fantasy
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KERSTIN HALL is a writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, and she is a first reader for Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her debut novella, "The Border Keeper", is available from Publishing.