In British author Swainston's first novel, a well-written, if occasionally uneven, fantasy, three humanoid species coexist successfully in a medieval world under the rule of a benevolent, immortal emperor, supported by a circle of 50 immortal warriors. For many centuries, however, this civilization has been under attack by Insects, monstrous creatures who convert everything they conquer into the Paperlands, endless wastelands of bizarre white walls and tunnels. Now one of the immortals, Jant the Messenger, addicted to the hallucinatory drug called cat, which allows him access to an alternate universe, has discovered the Insects' secret. Despite his debilitating addiction, Jant must find a way to preserve his world against the monsters' increasing onslaught. Numerous bloody battles keep the action moving, and Swainston has a powerful sense of the surreal, but her domestic scenes tend to drag and verge on soap opera. Jant is an engaging antihero, though most of the other characters are fairly flat. This off-beat fantasy should appeal to fans of China Miéville's fiction as well as to those who remember Roger Zelazny's Amber series with fondness.
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“Thoughtful, exuberant, incredibly inventive, funny but never whimsical or mannered: a blistering debut, and honest-to-God unputdownable.” (China Miéville, author of Perdido Street Station)
“Swainston’s first novel brings a bold new vision to the fantasy genre, combining classic fantasy elements with imaginative new images.” (Library Journal)
“Vibrant, colourful, tirelessly inventive and effortlessly weird, Stephanie Swainston has thrown the map away.” (M. John Harrison)
“Extraordinary…stunning…compelling…seriously new. … Swainst has considerably vivid powers of invention.” (Locus)