Welcome to Liberty. An independent state, free from all the politics and machinations of the United States’ government. However, its citizens recognize that it’s simply a matter f swapping one government for another and here paranoia runs high – and for good reason.
Eleanor navigates her free state while exploring her newly discovered (or newly defined) magical powers. She’s invited to join the local witch coven, who will help her understand and use her powers. But there’s a testing period where the coven needs to get to know Eleanor and she them.
Eleanor is given a task by the coven leader to help another coven search for a missing witch, Daria. Daria may be linked to the water shortage that Liberty is currently experiencing. Eleanor wouldn’t mind this mission, but she’s stuck with Stan, a beer-drinking, talking cat. Stan used to be Eleanor’s co-worked until she transformed him into his current form after an unpleasant incident.
This book is one of the wildest, most creative speculative fiction novels I’ve read in awhile. It’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you don’t mind a wild journey, this is worth a shot for you.
The book plays with time a little bit. We start in the middle of the action and only later in the book do we go back to get some of the history. This caught me off guard and I had to go back and re-read a couple of things to make sure I was understanding what was happening.
Stan the cat is hilarious. I generally don’t enjoy the talking cat ideas in a lot of fantasy, but this one, who had been a pretty selfish, jerk of a human being and who really hasn’t learned his lesson even yet, was a perfect foil for Eleanor.
One of my favorite moments in the book happens about 2/3 of the way through. Eleanor is being tested by the coven. Part of the test is having witches compete with one another and the competition gets to Eleanor – feeling more pressure to ‘win’ and she takes a shortcut and her transformation spell causes a plant to die.
The moment hung there again, and Eleanor felt the shame of it. She had cheated, and cheated badly. She looked at Gloria, trying to gauge how severe her punishment would be. Surely she wouldn’t be dismissed, would she? This felt so vital to her now, so much a part of her belief in herself. What would she be if she couldn’t go on to become a full-fledged Wiccan? How would she learn what she needed? “I failed,” she said quietly. “I know it and feel it. I didn’t want Chandler to be better than I was, so I tried to steal knowledge from her, when I didn’t see it.”
Gloria nodded, and to Eleanor’s relief, she smiled. “That’s progress, isn’t it? You can’t overcome your faults if you don’t know what your faults are, can you? So you’re willing to steal. And you’re jealous. And proud. Anything else?”
“Impatient,” Eleanor said. “Acting without thinking.” She waited. “I think that’s it.”
“Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone with those attributes had power?”
“Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone with those attributes had power?” – Wow. That resonated.
This is my first experience with the writing of Karen Heuler (other than a short story back in 2017) and I’m excited to read some of her backlist titles as well as anything new.
Looking for a good book? The Splendid City by Karen Heuler is a creative journey that is part urban fantasy, part supernatural fiction, and 100% fun.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Splendid City
author: Karen Heuler
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 275 pages