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The Absolute Book

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  634 ratings  ·  151 reviews
A spellbinding mix of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, American Gods and Carter Beats the Devil, this extraordinary contemporary fantasy is available for pre-order now . . .

Taryn Cornick believes her sister Bea was deliberately run down and killed. She believes it so hard she allows a man called the Muleskinner to exact the justice Bea was denied. An eye for an ey
Paperback, 656 pages
Published February 4th 2021 by Michael Joseph
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John Sullivan The author of that piece (Dan Kois) discussed it on yesterday's Culture Gabfest podcast ( It seems that his …moreThe author of that piece (Dan Kois) discussed it on yesterday's Culture Gabfest podcast ( It seems that his glowing review has now led to Penguin picking up the rights to publish this in America, though no date is yet set.(less)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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The Absolute Book is an esoteric, often maddening, epic fantasy that is ultimately rooted in contemporary concerns. It really defies summation but what we’re dealing with here is an ode to stories, language, and libraries that takes the form of a quest/portal fantasy and incorporates a kitchen sink’s worth of myths and legends from Celtic, Judeo-Christian, Norse, ancient Greek traditions and more.

The human protagonist, Taryn, is a successful author dealing with the fallout of her sister’s mu
Spencer Orey
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an odd one. Without giving much away, it starts as a murder mystery and then grows to encompass different genres. I was here for the fantasy elements and felt like those were just ok. But the full book is something special. I think if you're someone who doesn't read much fantasy, you'll like this one. For us fantasy nerds, it was provoking but not spectacular.

Like a lot of readers, I was directed here by that epic review in Slate:

May we all get r
* 2.5 *

Review disclaimer* - This is my first time reading Elizabeth Knox and my relationship with fantasy is often tenuous. The Absolute Book is good, nay, excellent in many respects but I am not it's most ideal reader. With that said lets carry on ...

I picked this book up ignorant of the fact that it was fantasy, which in hindsight seems like poor research on my part but actually probably worked out well. I was gently lulled into a fantasy/ crime /cyberterrorism/ Da Vinci Code melange and

Don't really have words for this one - I think I need to read it again.

There are points where everything blurs out of focus, and I found myself skipping back a few pages quite often to work out if I'd missed something (sometimes I had, sometimes I hadn't and the explanation was to come, sometimes I hadn't and the explanation never came). Sometimes I just wanted to grab the narrative and swing it sideways to focus on something lurking just out of sight at the edges of the pages. Something f
She felt as if she’d dropped something and, were she to stoop to retrieve it, things would pass over her head. Things like Edgar Allan Poe’s pendulum, the planes that flew into the Twin Towers, the howling Chelyabinsk meteor, and the angel of death. Stop and tie your shoe, Taryn, said a voice in her head. You have work to do, Taryn. Walk away. Taryn’s shoes were closed-toe, open-waisted sandals with buckles, not laces. [loc. 465]

It starts in a library, with two sisters witnessing attempted arso
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review of The Absolute Book first posted on Facebook July 29th:

I have just finished reading an Advanced Proof Copy Of Elizabeth Knox’s new fantasy novel, The Absolute Book!
A couple of days ago, I posted about the bliss found in a beautifully turned phrase. The Absolute Book is 650 pages of beautifully turned phrases. This is a master craftswoman’s work.
Things that happen:
Knox weaves together a fairytale narrative steeped in myth and religion with a gritty, modern day murder mystery. Taryn is
George Fenwick
was literally just too dumb to understand this, i had no idea what was going on about 40% of the time
Jan 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the first half of this and couldn't put it down... But the ending lost me.
Elizabeth Knox is one of my favourite authors, mixing gritty realism with fantasy and unique imagination, so I bought this for myself for Christmas and saved it to read on holiday and stayed up to finish it last night...
I'm just kind of stumped by the epilogue. It felt very tacked-on and the ending very rushed. There was a lot left unsaid between the lines, which always frustrates me in a book. I hate when an aut
Thais • tata.lifepages •
Rating 3.5 Stars.

First thing I noticed about this book is how large it is, it's sheer size is captivating as well as intimidating. It reads in a rather informative and descriptive manner, which can be seen as good thing, considering that Elizabeth Knox writes in such an eloquent way, however it had me also losing focus at times. You can tell that the author put in a lot of work, time and planning into this novel (it is also full of cultural and mythical references which add a lot of great detail
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Elizabeth Knox is a wonderful writer, and I'm not sure if anyone else could have created or written such a strange book. "The Absolute Book" takes place in a number of different intertwined realities. It is described by the author as an ‘arcane thriller’, a quest and a personal journey about revenge. But I feel as if I missed a key piece of information, because the story felt stilted and tangential. There were so many wonderfully descriptive sentences that led to a seemingly pointless piece of i ...more
Delway Burton
A mess of a book. Knox is an excellent writer. Her turns of phrase and metaphors are wonderful. However, plot-wise the book is a mish-mash of unexplained, almost incoherent, balderdash. The magic is arbitrary, the fantasy being a tru-the -looking glass structure, where alternative realities come and go from one paragraph to another. I think I’ll forego the sequel.
Perseus Q
May 01, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea what was happening.
There’s a talking bird.
Chloe (libraryofchlo)
Even after finishing I'm still like .... wait what

I'll review this in full soon!
Amy Burt
Feb 07, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve seen so much hype for The Absolute Book that I couldn’t wait to read it, bumping it up my TBR, but I actually found it really hard to read. This book is like 650 pages and you feel every page, possibly because I couldn’t get into it. This book really is too long and I think could have easily lost hundreds of pages, you learn things you don’t need to know, events are incredibly detailed that don’t push the plot along, and on that matter, I could not tell you what really happened, I was re-re ...more
Daisy Coles
I usually adore Knox but this went way over my head (or it, like, sprinted past me at a distance, or something). Too many fairies, too many practical details, not enough character. Vocabulary-enhancing as usual, carefully crafted as usual, but ... unloveable.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OMG! This book is incredible. It's big but super fast-paced, very intelligent. Loved it. ...more
Peter Mathews
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Matthew Dombrowski
I’ve been thinking about this book nonstop. It is just so smart and well planned. It’s urgent and engaging. Most of the fantasy elements feel familiar to other fantasy standards in the genre. But the success of the book to me is the use of the fantasy genre along side with the contemporary world. Our world and the other fantasy spaces are so expansive. The world building is evenly paced, maybe even a bit on the slow side. Part of the beauty is the tension between the long-held notions of “buildi ...more
Decades ago, Taryn’s sister was murdered. Now a successful author, the past continues to haunt Taryn.

The Absolute Book is an absolute epic. It journeys from this world to others, referencing the myths of many cultures. We meet the Sidhe and talking ravens. And we follow the mystery of an ancient scroll box known as the Firestarter. Threaded through it all is a love of books, storytelling and language.

Hugely imaginative, hard to capture.

Rewards careful reading and, no doubt, re-reading.

My thanks
I’m pretty disappointed in this book. It wasn’t bad, and I honestly don’t even think it was mediocre. It just wasn’t what I personally wanted it to be. I had VERY high expectations after reading this Slate article singing the praises of The Absolute Book. The Slate article compares this to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which is my favorite book. I don’t think any other book can make me feel the way that one does, but I’ll be forever chasing that feeling in a fantasy novel.

The Absolute Book has
Erin Franklin
If I rated this book purely based on my enjoyment of the reading experience it would be more like a 2. But I do think that the book is well-crafted. The writing is quite lovely in places and there's some real amazing craftsmanship that I can get behind... maybe I even would have dug this if it were half as long.

I placed a hold on The Absolute Book through the library back in early January (note that it's taken me a couple of months to get to) because I saw someone mention it as being "really wei
Taylor  Adair
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, there was something comforting and disconcerting about it all at once. I like the way it swung through genres, and the world building was excellent. I felt like there was a bigger plot twist I was waiting for that never came, and it probably ended too neatly for my liking but that’s just a matter of personal taste.

Very proud to claim Elizabeth Knox as a fellow Kiwi ❤️
Matthew Sampson
An epic fantasy from a New Zealand author about books and libraries. I anticipated a perfect match. Unfortunately the libraries and books do not feature prominently, and the story I got instead was fascinating but left a sour taste in my mouth.

Did not fill my soul as I had hoped. Withholding a recommendation.
Elli (Kindig Blog)
I love a good fantasy story and so I was excited to get the ARC of The Absolute Book although I was a little apprehensive as at 650 pages it is a beast. I was therefore really disappointed to have it be my first DNF for NetGalley at 36%.

The story starts out well, there’s a dead sister and a hitman and a family history in a library. Then I’m afraid it all got very confusing for me! The author seemed to be in a bad habit of describing a lot of things in detail but then skipping over something ver
Feb 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One to re-read and re-read

Thanks to Slate magazine, I learned of this wonderful book by a New Zealand author. It is a book that needs several readings before its depths are plumbed, my favorite kind. Other books like this for me are Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the Divine Comedy, the Iliad, the Lord of the Rings. I hope this helps you decide whether to read The Absolute Book.
Vaughan Willis
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where the fantastic serves as metaphor for psychological truth, deserves to stand alongside Ursula Le Guin or Philip Pullman. And in other strange aspects calls to mind David Mitchell. A blend of the modern era, parallel worlds, and older times where characters — the Taken — have been granted extended lifetimes. It’s tempting to allege confusion of writerly purpose when we encounter what seems like opacity, but it also feels just as right to settle for readerly inability to grasp such a big worl ...more
Carolyn DeCarlo
Jan 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book will stick with me for a very long time as my understanding of it changes and grows with its digestion. Shift is a new favourite literary character, and Aeng, Neve, and the other Sidhe are a fascinating race. There were incongruities in the pacing of this novel that I felt did not serve the development of these characters and their world(s). I hope very much for a future book from Elizabeth Knox with more focus on the demons and Hell. Not a light or easy read but beautifully wr ...more
Kirsten B
I’m almost halfway through this thing I’m supposed to be enthralled by... and need to get in here for clues about the incomprehensible plot and point of it all.

Knox hasn’t written this for me - I haven’t read all the novels her in-jokes refer to in the first 100 pages so not in ‘the club’. I’m out also because I feel it a cop out to have basically no constraints - any kind of magic could turn up anywhere any time. This subtracts from the impact, so I just don’t care about a sassy talking crow th
May 30, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really thought this book was a train wreck. Bloated and either I'm getting dim in my old age or this was incomprehensible in its machinations - just too much of too many layers, which had insult added to injury by making the central figure a heroine in the concluding pages when throughtout she'd been a self centred creature focussed on her victimhood.
I liked The Vitners Luck, but this was just much too loose and disappointing!
this is so much, and I need to reread it, but Elizabeth Knox thinks her readers are very smart which is, on the whole, a good thing even though there was probably a lot going on that I (an Idiot) did not percieve
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SciFi and Fantasy...: Amazing review of The Absolute Book 3 44 Jan 29, 2020 09:38AM  

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Elizabeth Knox was born in Wellington‚ New Zealand‚ and is the author of eleven novels and three novella and a book of essays.

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Happy Women's History Month! One of the undisputedly good things about modern scholarship is that women’s history is finally getting its due....
67 likes · 11 comments
“Let us think for a moment about Hulagu Khan. His sack of Baghdad’s libraries wasn’t just a gesture of hatred against Islamic culture and Syrian scholarship. He also destroyed the city’s bridges. Hulagu understood the relationship between knowledge and communication, communication and commerce, commerce and power. It is as if he took Baghdad and knocked the teeth out of its head. Not just the teeth that bite, but the teeth that facilitate eating and speech. He crippled the city. Hulagu took treasure and slaves, but he wasn’t a covetous conqueror, he didn’t want to stay and enjoy anything. He just wanted to beat the city down and make sure it stayed down.
Pg 45”
“I wish I could make a better job of my clothes. My mother taught me about weather and tides, she taught me eight languages and how to make various medicines, but she never thought to teach me to spin and weave and sew, because I was a boy. It seems silly now.
Pg 227”
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