I am a longtime T.J. Klune fan, so I was excited to learn about his new book. What’s so delightful about this author, is that each of his books is vastly different, all with a different feel to them, so you never quite know what you’re in for. Here, the author gives us a world here where humans and magical creatures coexist, though magical beings are stringently monitored by the government and are required to be ‘registered.’
This story follows a lonely middle-aged gay bureaucrat named Linus Baker who, for the past 17 years, has worked as a caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth where he travels to the various government-sponsored orphanages and evaluates them, strictly adhering to the suffocating RULES AND REGULATIONS as set forth by his department. It’s up to Linus to recommend whether or not the residences he inspects should remain open or be closed down.
One day, he is summoned to the offices of the fear-inducing Extremely Upper Management and told that he is to be sent on a mandatory top secret/top priority assignment: He must travel to the Marsyas Island Orphanage where six of the world’s most problematic and dangerous children reside, one of whom could even bring about the end of days. Linus is to remain there for a month and then report back on the residence’s daily operation — the children and their enigmatic caretaker — ultimately deciding upon the fate of the orphanage and the children therein.
So Linus, along with his grumpy cat Calliope, travel to Marsyas, which turns out to be the adventure of a lifetime. Linus’s presence on the island sets off a remarkable chain of events, and his life changes in ways he never could have predicted. As Linus and the children’s charming ward, Arthur Parnassus, grow closer and closer during Linus’s month-long stay on the island, long-hidden secrets of both the orphanage and the island are exposed.
The characters in this story completely won over my heart, and I fell in love with each and every one of them. Each was quirky and distinctly drawn and touched my soul in ways that I simply couldn’t have fathomed when I first picked up this book.
This story is brimming with personality as the tone shifts from light to dark, snarky to serious and back again with plenty of dry humor/black humor interspersed throughout. There is a deeper story within these pages as it speaks to the divisiveness of the world we live it. This book is all about casting off shame and stigma, and the reader should ready for some definite lump-in-the-throat moments.
This charmer of a story is a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt out of place, like they don’t fit in. What we end up with here, is a moving novel about the deep bonds of family but not a family born of blood, but rather a chosen family. This is one of my favorite themes in a book: of how the bonds of a family chosen or “found” can be as strong or even stronger than those of the family you’re born into and teaches us to find solace in the special friendships that we forge and to trust those who love us.
The love and respect each child gives their caretaker and the close-knit relationships each of them has with Arthur was so endearing and sweet. This is an exceptional novel that delves into themes of prejudice, abuse, bullying, being different, tyranny, identity, mob mentality, doing what’s right vs. doing what’s expected of you, moving past labels, and finding your true family. It’s such an emotive story, and it moved me to tears many times throughout the book. It was full of laughs, smiles, some misty-eyed moments, excellent banter/dialog, with excellent LGBTQ representation.
The writing is superb, the storytelling is magnificent, and the ending is joyous and hopeful. Ultimately, this book about magical children hooked me and wormed into my heart and mind, and may end up being one of my favorite books this year.
A huge thank you to Netgalley and to Tor Books for providing me with a review copy of this book.