Saturday 7 November 2015

Mini-Reviews: The Gracekeepers, How the Marquis Got His Coat Back

The Gracekeepers - Kirsty Logan

In a future flooded world, just about recognisable as our own after a great disaster, there is a division between the "landlockers" and the "damplings" who live on ships at sea. After all, humans will always find ways to draw lines between each other. North is part of a floating circus, with a manipulative ringmaster, his scheming wife, and his ruthlessly ambitious son, to whom she is engaged but does not love. Her only real companion is her performing bear, and they live and work together as friends, but he will never truly be tame. Callenish lives alone on an island, where she performs the funeral rites for those lost at sea: a mysterious ritual involving a kind of bird called a grace. When the floating circus comes to Callenish's island, her life and North's are tangled together; their paths take them on separate journeys: of escape, for North, and of redemption for Callenish, but always the sea will bring them back together.

The Gracekeepers is a compelling fairy tale set in a strange but believable story world, richly developed, wild, dangerous and hypnotic as the sea itself.

Read if you like: The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin.

How The Marquis Got His Coat Back - Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has been promising other stories set in the world of his first novel Neverwhere for a very long time. "How The Marquis Got His Coat Back" was originally published in the book Rogues, edited by George R. R. Martin, and also, I believe, in the latest US edition of Neverwhere, and last month it was published on its own in a mini paperback format. 

The story, as the title explains, follows one of the most charismatic characters of Neverwhere, The Marquis de Carabas, on his quest to retrieve the coat that, he feels, makes him who he is, which was taken from him after an unfortunate but necessary run-in with the terrifying Mister Croup and Mister Vandemar. His quest introduces a new cast of characters, friendly and (more often) malevolent, to the inhabitants of London Below, most of whom may sound familiar to anyone who has examined a London Underground map - but none are quite as they seem. We finally get to see the mythical Shepherds of Shepherds' Bush. ("There are shepherds. Pray you never meet them.") It is safe to say that, as is often the way in the works of Neil Gaiman, they were nothing like I expected, but afterwards could be nothing else. Yes, I said to myself once more, that makes perfect sense.

Read if you like: Neverwhere, of course.

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