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Book Club: Ben Ghan’s upcoming novel, What We See in the Smoke

A new novel by a U of T alum on Torontonian apocalypses at the intersection of Bradbury and Bloor

Book Club: Ben Ghan’s upcoming novel, <i>What We See in the Smoke</i>

You would be hard-pressed to find a U of T student who is not painfully aware of the catalogue of accomplishments that the Office of the President shills for the now-retired Boundless campaign: our nine Nobel Prize laureates, our four Prime Ministers, and our engineering and medical marvels.

But our less marketable assets conveniently slip through the cracks of campaigns, newsletters, and student awareness. Not as many students can list the accomplishments of Marshall McLuhan, Northrop Frye, and the other name-droppable contributors to Canadian culture as easily as they can recite the now-trite laundry list of accomplishments from the campaign.

This familiar cultural issue forms the core of one motifs explored by the hand-stitched literary debut of Ben Berman Ghan: What We See in the Smoke. The book, a self-described “patchwork” of interrelated, but ultimately not codependent, stories, leads the reader through increasingly fictional and farfetched plots with the city of Toronto at its center. It is a Bradbury-esque adventure that takes its reader across time and space at the intersection of science fiction and the yearning for a better home.

The vector for each of these Torontonian escapades? Apocalypses. Big and small; banal and fundamental; at times familiar yet oftentimes not.  

The destruction of a standard becomes Ghan’s mandate. True to form, each of the seventeen ‘patches’ that form his quilted narrative eventually destroys themselves. The earlier stories, ones both chronologically and thematically closer to our present time, destruct in forms that are quite familiar to denizens of a city built upon seemingly-constant renewal and construction.

It is upon this concept of familiarity that Ghan seems to base his most successful heel-turns in character development and plot. He wields What We See’s dramatic irony so aptly that the reader rarely expects the destruction wrought in his stories. The later, more futuristic, and certainly more science-fiction-like stories, transition slowly from the familiar bounds of the city we all know, yet remain consistent in motif, providing the reader with a sense of recognizability, despite constant content shifts.

Truly, the whole novel feels like Toronto — all of its tragic and painful moments, which happen more often than expected — are caught up in cherry blossoms, major intersections, and, of course, the unassailable CN Tower.

When the reader begins the novel, Ghan seems to sell his stories short, making them almost too recognizable, too familiar. Certainly, in my first read-through of the novel, I questioned what interest I had in reading realistic stories of Toronto’s grittiness when I was faced with them in one way or another almost every day. I live here.

But that familiarity deceives. Ghan allows you to become comfortable in a surrounding you feel like you know, before making you believe that you never knew it in the first place. This happens to the point of uncanniness, where the feeling of Toronto, despite all the changes each story makes in plot and content, begin to signal something uneasy. For Ghan, there are only two certainties in Toronto: a mild-yet-still-somehow-debilitating winter and similarly enduring business development.

Despite its unique motley demeanour, What We See ends up being a novel rich in motifs that the average Torontonian can recognize and understand. A mixture of the heinous and the righteous, and a spark of constant renewal that keeps it all in flux, Ben Ghan’s debut is a solid underscoring of the Torontonian ethos.

Ghan seems to ask each of his stories, and the reader as well, what Toronto they would like to see. How would you give Toronto the identity it so desperately aches to discover?  

The only way for you to know is to pick up the book yourself.

What We See in the Smoke is set to release on June 6, 2019.

You can pre-order the novel on amazon.

Bookclub: Warlight

U of T alum Michael Ondaatje’s most recent novel is not to be missed

Bookclub: <em>Warlight</em>

How does one reconcile the differences between ‘postwar’ and ‘life after the war’? Famous Canadian writer and University of Toronto alum Michael Ondaatje attempts to answer this in his most recent novel, Warlight.

Warlight is a story of many shapes and sizes that takes place over many years. Although the novel is set in the context of siblings Nathaniel and Rachel growing up in London after World War II, the effects of that war pervade the lives of the characters throughout.

Above all, the novel is about growing up in a postwar world without the guidance of one’s parents. Nathaniel and Rachel see the world through this absence, informed by their childhood with parents who have left them for Singapore and under the care of a man they name ‘The Moth’ and his band of eccentrics. Growing up without parents is hard for any child, let alone in the shadow of a war under the care of law-skirting individuals.

Although the siblings live with The Moth, The Moth does not raise them. Told from Nathaniel’s perspective, the children essentially raise themselves. But they quickly veer off course and Nathaniel descends into London’s underworld, living a life that he would not have had if his parents were still in London. We unfortunately do not see much of Rachel’s psychology, which I would have liked to know more about. Nevertheless, Nathaniel’s inner musings are compelling enough to lead the story. His meditations on family, the past, childhood, and postwar life are filled with Ondaatje’s signature wisdom.

The story follows Nathaniel into adulthood when he gets recruited by Britain’s Home Office to wade through documents relating to the war. This section of the novel answers a lot of questions about Nathaniel and Rachel’s parents and allows Nathaniel to view his childhood and family from a different perspective.

Ondaatje’s novels like to keep things mysterious and not provide you with answers to the questions that you undoubtedly have. The same is true about Warlight. Nathaniel’s job in espionage is to discover the past, but just like in real life, the more he wades into the past the murkier it gets. Memories, like human beings, are greatly flawed and there are always many sides to a story. This is what Warlight tries to tell us by its end.

Warlight is a great novel by a Canadian master who has honed his craft to a diamond sheen and is well worth reading by fans of literary and Canadian fiction.

Book Club: Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem

The wisdom and ethics of doomsday

Book Club: Liu Cixin’s <I>The Three-Body Problem</I>

The science-fiction genre is predominantly filled with Western writers. Therefore, when Chinese writer Liu Cixin’s trilogy opener The Three-Body Problem won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel, it was incredibly exciting for Chinese sci-fi fans. The books have since been translated into over 17 languages and become available worldwide. 

The story begins around 19661976, the era of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Ye Wenjie, a young astrophysicist, witnesses the tragic death of her father and his friends, causing her to lose faith in humanity. Several years later, Ye is forced to serve the Red Coast in a secret base, searching for lifeforms outside of Earth. Eventually, she receives a message from the Trisolarans, an alien species that has just escaped a natural disaster on its planet in the Three-Body system. 

Ye secretly invites the Trisolarans to invade Earth, but it is not until 50 years later that humans become aware of the immense peril coming to their planet. The trilogy’s main characters, Wang Miao, Luo Ji, and Cheng Xin, then play different roles in determining the future of humanity. 

One of the key elements of the novel is the Dark Forest theory, which suggests that the universe is just like a dark forest. A civilization that exposes itself is similar, for instance, to a person who lights a fire in a dark forest. Seeing a suspicious light, other civilizations will view its creator as a possible threat and therefore try to eliminate the exposed civilization. The best way for a civilization to protect itself is to not declare that it exists at all. Survival is always the priority. 

Suspicion and fear of the unknown is a part of human nature. The dark forest not only exists in the novel, but also in human history with different iterations of war, conflict, discrimination, and violence. Most of the emotions fuelling such actions originate from fear, and fear is usually generated by perceived differences. Liu has no qualms about showing this ugly side of humanity. Questions of the greater good, the necessity of individual sacrifice for achieving such a goal, and whether cannibalism can be justified in extreme circumstances are discussed throughout the books. Liu strives to present a neutral point of view, inspiring readers to think of and come to their own conclusions.

The book is also a hit for its merging of ancient Chinese culture with state-of-the-art technology. For instance, to explain the Trisolarans’ origin story, Liu creates a fictional virtual reality game that features historical figures from China, such as Emperor Wen of Zhou, Confucius, and Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Liu not only makes use of these famous names, but also their historical identities, giving readers a good peek into Chinese history and culture. The tension between Daoism and Confucianism, one of the biggest conflicts among Chinese philosophers, is also discussed throughout. 

Liu gives his readers all the freedom to think and allows them to follow their own will, because there is no good choice or bad choice. People try to justify a choice with its consequence, yet the consequences of other choices have never been lived; they are unknown, and therefore one can never judge a decision as good or bad, right or wrong.

Book Club: Hillary Clinton’s What Happened

More like nothing happened: 500 pages of disappointment

Book Club: Hillary Clinton’s <i>What Happened</i>

Hillary Clinton’s New York Times bestseller is little more than 500 pages of disappointment. Being her seventh book with publisher Simon & Schuster, Clinton has written extensively in her 71-year-long lifetime without showing much of a learning curve. That is, unless she hired a ghostwriter whose understanding of prose matches that of a 10th grader. In signing yourself up to read through some 500 pages of her qualms, self-congratulatory notes, accusations, and name-drops, you are signing up for a test of self-resilience.

Resist against the urge to call it quits on the 30th page. Yes, I know, this is the novel everyone pretends to read — it’s a little like George Orwell’s 1984 in your high school classroom, but you must make it through this $39.99 CAD hardcover, for you paid three hours of minimum wage for it. If you borrowed it from the library, you have less of an obligation to push through.

My copy of What Happened came from a bartering platform on Bunz. I traded away cryptocurrency worth four-fifths a bowl of soup at a subway station last week. Feeling the book in my hands, I felt a slight elation. The cover is beautiful, as is the typeface. The effects of the type face reminds me of Gotham, which is a fan favourite font, as seen on Barack Obama’s campaign materials and an endless array of movie posters.

Once I hopped onto my train and started reading, however, my elation flattened into disappointment. It reads like a self-pitying statement right off the bat. You’ll have ridden on an emotional rollercoaster with the ex-Secretary of State by the time you reach the 20th page. Her sentences do not flow from one to the next. Her writing reads like a jot note report, leaving little room for insight or elaboration.

Clinton feeds you a bit of everything in her life, though not in chronological order. Where is the allure in reading an autobiography that tells readers little more than what they already know? She is sure to lose politically disengaged audiences whenever she name-drops without explanation or elaboration.

Furthermore, she constantly darts back and forth along the chronological timeline that many authors and journalists swear by. Clinton’s narrative style includes a pattern of making factual statements about events, promptly mentioning her disdain for Donald Trump’s performance that day, and reminding readers of how she truly believed she would win, only to recognize her digression and march forth with the event she was speaking about five lines ago.

To transition between topics by insisting that ‘that’s not the point here’ is analogous to writing a literary essay on Oliver Twist, word-vomiting an out-of-place memory of what you had for dinner last night, and then starting the next paragraph with, “I am sorry for having gone off-topic. Let me talk about Dickens’ argument again.”

What Happened is a physical representation of an incredibly long Rick Mercer-esque rant saturated with names we need not learn. It’s not that I don’t want to learn about her four stylists and makeup artists, but I feel no use in just learning their names. Clinton likes to name-drop, but leaves readers with little more than the names of these people whom she’s worked with. She speaks little about the personal experiences she has shared with these people who were important enough to earn a spot in her book.

Clinton chops her autobiography into six parts: “Perseverance,” “Competition,” “Sisterhood,” “Idealism and Realism,” “Frustration,” and “Resilience,” with each part containing two to five chapters. While these are all very interesting concepts, each part reads similarly. In “Perseverance,” there are already ideas about competition, sisterhood, idealism and realism, frustration, and resilience.

Instead of offering a neatly organized catalogue of ideas like most bestselling authors, Clinton’s book reads like a disorganized jumble of thoughts, ideas, regrets, self-congratulatory notes, and sneers.

Many people were asking “what happened?” after Clinton’s loss against Trump in the 2016 US presidential election. They also wanted to catch a glimpse of her life outside of the spotlight after her devastating loss. Aside from the occasional recommendations of yoga and staying at home, Clinton shares very little about her personal life in the autobiography. In fact, most of what she wrote in this novel could already be found on the internet.

Clinton has led an exciting life — one worthy of many autobiographies. I just wish her latest offered a more intimate look into her past. But she is a politician, after all. She needs to seize the opportunity to defend the Clinton Foundation — which has recently found itself in hot water over shady finances — her decision to run, and her lacklustre interviews. Clinton has a public image to maintain, and she’s spent her lifetime maintaining that persona. Maybe I’ll find a more introspective and cohesive version of What Happened in the form of a “Reporter at Large” article in The New Yorker.

Book Club: Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn

YA and other drugs

Book Club: Renée Ahdieh’s <i>The Wrath & the Dawn</i>

When I reluctantly tell people how much I love to read, I wait in dismay for the inevitable, nerve-wracking question: “Oh really? What’s your favourite book?” Several answers pass through my mind: Gabriel García Márquez’s A Hundred Years of Solitude, Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. All respectable, critically acclaimed novels.

All lies.

The truth is that my favourite novels have always been, and perhaps always will be, young adult (YA) novels. Maybe it’s the dark, brooding bad boys. Maybe it’s the cheaper prices. Maybe YA novels are my last ditch effort to avoid the chaos and monotony of adulthood and hold onto the chaos and wonder of my childhood. Or perhaps — and this may shock you — YA books are genuinely good books.

YA fiction is largely targeted to younger, female audiences. It is also the most ridiculed and disreputable genre in academic circles. Coincidence?  I think not. There’s been a general pattern in ‘high society’ to sneer at anything young women enjoy: boy bands, the colour pink, Starbucks, and yes, YA fiction.

Perhaps the stigma around YA novels isn’t gender-related at all. Maybe it’s enough that YA is catered to younger generations. “Breaking news: Millennials are ruining everything, even books!” Critics label YA novels as artless because they’re easy to read and understand. Why must a novel be difficult to be considered valuable? Why must it be old? Or have a sad or vague ending?

Many are quick to dismiss YA novels, even critically acclaimed ones, as unsophisticated. What the majority can’t see is just how intricate and creative these novels can be. Take Renée Ahdieh’s The Wrath & the Dawn. Ahdieh reimagines one of the oldest and most beloved stories of all time: One Thousand and One Nights. Set in Khorasan, a real historical region in the Persian and later Islamic empire, The Wrath & the Dawn follows the main elements of the old fable.

An evil king takes a new wife each night, only to slaughter her come sunrise. When her best friend becomes his latest victim, Shahrzad Al-Khayzuran, The Wrath & the Dawn’s protagonist, vows to kill the king no matter what it takes. Shahrzad is the first to voluntarily marry the king. Being a master storyteller and literary scholar, she plans to captivate him with fairy tales, night after night, until she can exact her revenge.

But wait! Ahdieh’s retelling has a twist! Not everything is as it seems in this palace of marble and death. The caliph, the great and malevolent King of Kings, is merely a boy of 18 years. Khalid, the name with which Shahrzad comes to know the caliph, does not meet her expectations at all. He loves stories, the colour blue, and the smell of lilacs in her hair. There are people in the palace who would defend him until their very last breath, not out of fear, but out of respect. He has amber eyes, a jawline that could cut steel, and a tragic past. There may or may not be a curse involved.

Ahdieh’s writing style is exquisite. She captivates and traps you in a world of sparkling cities, colourful bazaars, Persian delicacies, and patterned silk sashes. The world-building is absolutely fabulous, completely transporting you to a different time and place. The Wrath & the Dawn becomes a living, breathing being under Ahdieh’s careful hand, a tangible world you can almost touch. The romance is flawless, the characters enchanting, and the fantastical and magical elements are striking at every turn.

The Wrath & the Dawn was also groundbreaking to me because it starred Middle Eastern characters. It will always hold a special place in my heart because I saw myself reflected in a protagonist for the first time in Shahrzad. That is another great thing about YA — it strives to truly represent its diverse, young, and impressionable audience.

What I’m proposing is a revolution in how we view YA fiction. I want to be able to enjoy YA novels like The Wrath & the Dawn without my intelligence and appreciation for literature becoming a point of contention. YA demonstrates the worth and value in young voices, the leaders of tomorrow. It gives us a sense of agency in a world that continues to belittle our experiences and our voices. There’s no shame in loving a book like The Wrath & the Dawn, and we shouldn’t be made to feel like there is.

Book Club: Shyness and Dignity

Dag Solstad explores what inevitably shapes our fate: what we can control and what we can’t control

Book Club: <i>Shyness and Dignity</i>

The existentialist novel — however it may be defined — is a modern invention. Following the devastation of World War II, its intellectual vanguards developed a philosophy to more deeply express the human experience.

These novelists relay existential concepts while paying special attention to detail and voice in style andtransience and nuance in psychology. Ultimately, their philosophical inquiries articulate the tangible and invisible forces driving our alienation from the modern world.

Yet the existential novel can be seen as dated, bordered by conventions and overshadowed by succeeding literary movements that consider the ambivalence of our ontological condition from a greater variety of narrative and philosophical angles. Existentialism is anachronistic  a uniquely twentieth century literary enterprise. How else to revive the genre if not through emulation, parody, or kitsch?

Enter Dag Solstad, Norway’s most celebrated contemporary writer, whose 1994 novel Shyness and Dignity breathes new life into an otherwise exhausted literature. His work is fully absorbed in its specific literary tradition while grounding its concerns in our unique and present-day anxieties.

Its axis revolves around Elias Rukla, a “rather sottish senior master in his fifties” teaching Norwegian literature at a secondary school in Oslo. Mid-lecture, Elias discovers hidden meaning in an ostensibly insignificant line direction in Henrich Ibsen’s play The Wild Duck. The finding inspires Elias to think innovatively about the play’s dramatics and its discussion of fate.

In spite of his passionate delivery, his students remain listless and unmotivated. Frightened by their mass boredom, Elias ultimately resigns himself to defeat. He leaves the school frustrated. Struggling to open his “collapsible” umbrella outside, he enters into a fit of rage, beats it savagely in front of spectating students, and cusses at one of them ruthlessly.

All at once, Elias realizes his downfall. Certain that his teaching post will be terminated, he despairs over the bleak economical and social future awaiting him and his wife. His crisis triggers a sequence of recollections and speculations, interwoven with daydreams and regrets, that follows throughout the rest of the novel until the very end, when he must return to his current life and face his presently doomed future.

Shyness and Dignity takes on the form of a streamofconsciousness narrative, full of winding run-on sentences and multi-page digressions, moving from one fixed idea to the next with the swiftness of pen strokes. The narration exhausts itself in bridging each detail and implication to create an intricately connected web of thoughts and ideas. However, its variations and detours never stray beyond what is truly at stake. Even the most seemingly banal details inevitably fall under the two categories suggested in the title: shyness, the natural yet inhibiting force; and dignity, the great motivator and stimulant.

Apart from its style, the novel’s preoccupation with agency, chance, and fate is a recognizable quality in existentialist literature. Echoes of Albert Camus and Knut Hamsun can be heard all throughout, and any reader of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being will find themselves in familiar territory.

What makes Solstad’s novel especially interesting, however, is its relative lightheartedness and penchant for comedy. One can easily imagine the umbrella scene as a slapstick gag in silent comedy. Yet its pervasive and subtle humor never compromises its sincerity. Miraculously, the novel strikes a brilliant balance between the comic potential of existential dilemmas and the gravity they implicate in our lives. It views our world through a sharp lens, capturing the quiet dramas we harbor daily with equal amounts of grace, sympathy, and amusement.

Shyness and Dignity is the perfect introduction to an author whose work is only recently gaining a wider readership among English-speaking readers. It is a novel that reintroduces familiar existential ideas and unpacks their newfound significance while maintaining a sophisticated style, so as to represent subtle workings of the conscience. Its ethos can be summed thusly in one of the most important lines in The Wild Duck, a proto-existentialist remark that still resonates due to its universality and urgency: “If you take the life-lie away from an average person, you take away his happiness as well.”

Book Club: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

A little girl’s life stolen and contrived for the illusion of a perfect Eastern beauty

Book Club: <i>Memoirs of a Geisha</i> by Arthur Golden

The only novel I’ve ever wanted to read twice in my life, Memoirs of a Geisha is considered by many to be a historical fairy tale that paints a breathtakingly exotic and beautiful world. Written by an evocative author, it tells the story of a character whom we learn to both love and hate.

Taking place in Japan, the novel spans from the early 1900s, when nine-year-old Sayuri is taken away from her family at the age of nine, to the 1950s, when World War II has left the country in shambles. Sayuri is forced to become a geisha: a female Japanese entertainer specialized in the performance arts. Not to be confused with prostitution, the geisha business is dignified and requires years of rigorous and expensive training.

For background, in the 1920s, there were over 80,000 geishas in Japan. Many of them started training at a very young age in a kaburenjo, a school that teaches girls how to sing, dance, play instruments, and perform tea ceremonies. In addition to becoming a skillful artist, the girls must learn how to carry themselves with grace and allure.

A geisha will spend hours getting ready for work. From lavish kimonos to extensive hairdressing routines, a geisha’s main purpose is to please and entertain men, to gain their liking. This is also so that they can earn a danna: a wealthy man who will pay for and take care of them in exchange for a more intimate relationship. The world of geishas is where the gender dichotomy manifests to its fullest, where women are presented as nothing more than an object of desire.

Through her struggles, young Sayuri takes us into a geisha’s world — one where she’s trained to enchant the most powerful men, yet bear no power in choosing whom she can love. Sayuri lives a life like water flowing down a hill, until she splashes into something that forces her to find a new course. Although she leads a glamorous life in the public eye, Sayuri is helpless to her own fate.

Arthur Golden wrote the entire story in the gentle and innocent voice of Sayuri. To create a narrative as historical and as niche as Memoirs of a Geisha, Golden conducted a lot of firsthand research. Golden interviewed Mineko Iwasaki, who became the biggest inspiration for the creation of Sayuri. Iwasaki was a geisha hersel­f — one of the most well-known in Kyoto in her time.

Iwasaki provided Golden with many rich details and insights about her life as a geisha. However, following the book’s publication and success, Iwasaki was enraged. She felt betrayed at the book’s open publicity of her most private matter — namely, her mizuage, which is a ceremony that auctions a girl’s virginity. In addition, there were details in the book that Iwasaki felt were not properly represented. They acted as nothing more than sprinkled glamour that Golden used to write a bestseller.

Whether the alleged mistakes were intended or accidental, it is undeniable that Golden cannot be a perfect writer of Japanese culture. Golden is a man born in America. He never grew up in an okiya or faced the desolation of losing his entire family to poverty. However, what he lacks in experience, he makes up for with imagination and craftsmanship.

If you’re looking for a precise historical account of geisha culture, this book will not be it. But if you’re looking to escape into a world both lyrical and sensual, a world that captivates and evocates, then this is your book.

Book Club: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

Autumn is coming: curl up with The Black Prism and a Tim Hortons coffee

Book Club: <i> The Black Prism </i> by Brent Weeks

Brent Weeks is not the first author who I mention to people when I say that I love fantasy. I tend to lean toward Patrick Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman, and Brandon Sanderson — all producers of the beloved literary warhorses that dragged me into the genre.

Weeks’ novels were typically the ones that I paused on and never actually brought home. However, The Black Prism hit me like an emotional dump truck, and I can confidently say that this book is one that I will treasure forever, in multiple first-edition copies, after I finally pay off my library fines.

The Black Prism is a high-fantasy novel that is set in a land with a colour-based magic system. Certain people are able to produce a mystical element called Luxin, which can be used for construction-, attack-, and compulsory-type magic. However, the properties of the Luxin are tied to a colour, and most characters can only create Luxin of one colour — a gift that comes at a deadly cost.

Gavin Guile, the protagonist of the novel, is the only person who can create all seven colours of Luxin. He is worshipped as a divine figure known as the Prism. But Gavin is scarred emotionally and physically from war and is haunted by the acts that he performed to bring peace to his world.

Weeks’ story feels intricately planned. Many fantasy books fall into the trap of mimicking others in the genre. There are several novels that contain a Gavin-like character — The Name of the Wind, a familial feud — American Gods, or even magic based on the colour spectrum — Warbreaker. However, this book is exceptional because, despite the old tropes that feel like familiar friends, the novel spools out plot twists and double crosses in a way that I can only describe as masterful. Without giving too much away, I’ll just say that no one is who they appear to be in this book, and everyone is the better for it.

At times, though, the writing is almost too painful to read. Weeks includes many heavy plot points in the novel. Characters face war, devastation, and heartbreak, yet the novel is set largely after most of these events occur. There is an omnipotent central character, but many of the points of view come from characters who are forced to play sidekick to the legends.

The most emotional scenes come from the ordinary people who are called upon to live in the mess that was created by the giant war, those who have dealt bitterly with those consequences for years after. Weeks never shies away from this idea, which is extremely appealing in a genre that often glorifies and focuses on the stories of the never-fallen.

Finally, this book is perfect for autumn; it should be accompanied by vivid scenery. As so much of this book is based on the ideas of colour and light, Weeks’ writing dwells on the beauty of the natural world and makes a pretty convincing argument for watching the leaves fall from the trees.

This book is funny, well-written, and matches Red Rising in the number of quotable, dramatic, and slightly arrogant phrases. I would recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy or wants to love it.