RaveChicago Review of Books... a gleeful, genre-bending romp, sliding effortlessly between different modes of horror ... relentlessly funny without ever dropping its core seriousness. Muir has once again distilled several variations on \'frenemy\' to fuel a compelling cast, and the novel’s pacing is amazingly controlled given how chaotic the story is—like a building deliberately falling down ... an intricate and deceptive piece of work, refusing a straightforward approach to its outlandish story ... Muir uses this ambitious, convoluted structure, not as an end in itself, but as a sneaky way to build on the fantastic premises of her debut ... Delight is a key virtue of the novel—despite its effective horror, its grim world and gory action, Harrow is a fun, even joyful read ... an astonishing depth of feeling and a perfectly-constructed puzzle box of a plot.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... part of the delight of reading the novel is just how fearlessly it tosses together outlandish ideas with distinct elements from different genres ... Like its eponymous protagonist, Gideon knows what it’s interested in, and that does not include a lot of dry exposition, world building, or backstory ... At times morbid and horrific, at others times exuberantly gross, Gideon the Ninth is incredibly fun. It’s snarky, inventive, and absolutely revels in sexual tension and swordplay ... The lack of explanation might be frustrating for traditional science fiction readers. We don’t learn why the characters use swords instead of guns, much less how exactly magic and interplanetary travel interact. Yet Muir makes Gideon’s adventure-by-adventure experience so integral and seamless that we don’t really need that larger world building spelled out. One area that takes a while to click is the ensemble cast... this led me flipping back to the dramatis personae more than I would like. It’s also hard to grasp the political and militaristic significance of much of the plot ... What keeps Gideon the Ninth barreling along is Muir’s clever exploration of a heavy, frequently horrific plot that is juxtaposed by very modern dialogue and irreverent humor ... remarkably joyful. The snippy banter is great, the action scenes are top-notch, and Gideon emerges as a fully-formed, emotionally realized character. As a result, this allows the book a much greater tonal range than one might expect ... It’s difficult to overstate how fun this book is. The genre-mashing works better than it has any right to ... Rambunctious, unapologetic, and somehow consistently believable, Gideon the Ninth is a fantastic debut.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksPart of the charm of Jo Walton’s writing is how seriously and pragmatically her characters take their situations, no matter how outlandish...Walton’s authentic treatment of fantastic premises brings depth and humanity to what might otherwise be fun but ludicrous scenarios ... takes a richly historical, factual account and injects demons, reincarnation, and Groundhog’s Day-like repetition ... Winningly anxious, humane, and cerebral, Lent uses its time-loop structure to elevate historical narrative into a thoughtful exploration of character and faith ... Walton’s not above having a bit of fun here and there ... it’s her skill at character that really shines in Walton’s best work—making the protagonists relatable, somewhat rational, no matter how surreal their situation ... will be a treat for anyone with an interest in this period, but it’s this human angle, the way Girolamo slowly bends towards being humble enough to let others help him, that makes the novel come alive.