I have a new ‘best book of the year’!
Tom Miller’s The Philosopher’s Flight came at me so unexpectedly … I wasn’t even sure what kind of book this was going to be (it’s been in my queue for about a year) … but it didn’t take long for me to become absolutely hooked and find little excuses to read ‘just a little more’ each day.
This strikes me as so unique, it’s almost hard to pigeon-hole what sort of book this is … alternate history/historical fiction/fantasy/war/romance?
It is 1917 and the United States is deep in WWI. Empirical philosophers, sometimes commonly referred to as sigilrists, have been making a difference. Sigilry is a mysterious art – part science, part magic – in which energy is manipulated by a person in order to produce a physical effect. This accomplished through a combination of the manipulator drawing very specific sigils (which must be done correctly or it may not produce the intended result [or, worse, it might produce a different result]) with specific chemicals/materials (such as cornmeal or flour or water). The results might provide flight to the sigilrist, may allow the philosopher to transport a person or persons to a different location, might spur plants to grow faster, or melt the bones inside a living human body. Most philosopher’s have a specialty.
The discovery and use of empirical philosophy began in the 1750’s but the art is typically only able to be performed by women. Men are so rare that when Robert Weekes applies to one of the colleges that teach empirical philosophy, as a flight student, it causes a stir and protest. Raised by a sigilrist mother who had some fame in the military, Robert has a natural ability, uncommon in males, but of course he needs to prove himself at every turn, and he has to put up with a great deal of taunting.
I don’t think I can adequately express how much I enjoyed this book. From the remarkable world-building, to the clear allegory, to the characters that immediately real and often likable, to the plot and sub-plots that are complex enough to provide a lot of interest but not so complex that one needs an index to keep it all straight.
This is not a female-dominated society … it is a female-dominated profession, and so we get the interesting dual view of how women are treated as well as the clear analogy of Weekes’ struggles trying to be successful in a woman’s line of work.
Tom Miller writes this story in such a tight manner – giving us all kinds of new information – the art form and the new, unusual world, while developing the characters and the story.
This is a book that I have liked so much that I will be purchasing extra copies in order to give to friends.
Looking for a good book? The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller is an absolutely remarkable, engaging alternate history fantasy that you should read.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Philosopher’s Flight
author: Tom Miller
series: The Philosopher’s Series #1
publisher: Simon & Schuster
hardcover, 422 pages