Ya so like I said, it’s novellas and shorter books for me for a while yet. Which is good, because it’s gotten me to read (or rather, listen to) this one that’s been on my list since it came out.
Powerful shipping magnate Evelyn Perdanu lives a tight, contained life, holding herself at a distance from all who would get close to her. Her family is dead, her country is dying, and when something foul comes to the city of Delphinium, the brittle, perilous existence she’s built for herself is strained to breaking.
When one of her ships arrives in dock, she counts herself lucky that it made it through the military blockades slowly strangling her city. But one by one, the crew fall ill with a mysterious sickness: an intense light in their eyes and obsessive behavior, followed by a catatonic stupor. Even as Evelyn works to exonerate her company of bringing plague into her besieged capital city, more and more cases develop, and the afflicted all share one singular obsession: her.
Panicked and paranoid, she retreats to her estate, which rests on a foundation of secrets: the deaths of her family, the poisons and cures that hasten the dissolution of the remaining upper classes, and a rebel soldier, incapacitated and held hostage in a desperate bid for information. But the afflicted are closing in on her, and bringing the attention of the law with them. Evelyn must unearth her connection to the spreading illness, and fast, before it takes root inside her home and destroys all that she has built.
I’m not sure if it’s because it was not really what I expected, because it was so different from The Luminous Dead, or because I did not really enjoy the audiobook narrator as much as I have others in the past, but I could not really get into this one.
It’s genuinely good, I think, it’s just not really for me. Even so, there were moments that truly packed a punch and made me feel things, despite not caring much for Evelyn, the heroine. I feel like there was a whole universe behind this novella and that perhaps I’d have enjoyed a deeper dive, rather than this quite indirect, almost huis-clos story. I’m finding it hard to put the words on what I did not really like, it’s more of a general “meh, it’s alright” than anything that really stood out as bad.
I did enjoy that Evelyn was such a complex character, and I felt for her — and especially her traumas — but I did not fully empathise, and I think it may be down to the short form. At the same time I’m not sure there was a full novel in here, it’s pretty self-contained. Maybe just a bit more context or time to spend with the character would have helped.
At the same time if you enjoy a bit of slice of life, subtle queerness, a bit of horror and a bit of mystery, this book might well be for you.
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