RaveTor.com\"Riddance is Jackson’s first novel in twelve years, and it’s as noisy, category-defying, and fantastically weird a book as a longtime Jackson fan might hope for ... It is a big, exuberant, gleeful book, whimsical and inventive and stuffed full of wild leaps from the land of the dead to the land of the living—which, in Jackson’s world, are not so very separate at all ... Jackson always brings us back to its most compelling elements: the intersections and divergences of Jane and Sybil’s devastating loneliness and indomitable wills. As the book progresses—and the school falls apart—their stories surface more and more insistently, carrying the reader through to a bittersweet end. While Riddance begins as a sometimes grotesque and always clever meditation on living, dying, and writing fiction, its heart is something sadder and less cerebral—an investigation into the way that damage and trauma reroute human lives.\
PositiveTor.comWonderblood is a difficult, fascinating book, spectacular in the literal sense: blood rains from the sky, battles seethe, grotesque prophetesses are shut up in fabulist towers, queens build lapis lazuli chambers and leisurely golf while the world burns (based on the book’s publication schedule, Whicker called that one long in advance). In places, its imagery is dazzlingly incandescent; elsewhere, its plot all but grinds to a halt as characters confer for pages about convoluted and un-engaging intrigues. Its future is relentlessly grim and bloody but marvelously imagined and original, and while Whicker’s characters stab, chop, torture, and amputate with Game of Thrones-esque abandon, the novel is refreshingly free of sexualized violence. (Incest and bigamy, yes: on-page assault, blessedly no.) Whicker is a beautiful writer; even when the plot’s engine fails to rev her sentences shine, and the novel’s vivid imagery reads like Angela Carter by way of Hieronymus Bosch ... her female characters are all standouts ... I found myself wishing that Whicker would work even further through the ramifications of her future: the novel fails entirely to deal with race, xenophobia, or the ways in which modern-day persecution of immigrants, people of color, and indigenous and Muslim people might unfurl centuries hence. Likewise, it’s unclear how climate change or environmental collapse factors in to the novel’s vision (five hundred years from now, Cape Canaveral will almost certainly be underwater). But for all its flaws, Wonderblood is a remarkably impressive debut novel: striking, original, and fantastically inventive. I will eagerly await whatever Julia Whicker does next.
PositiveTorStarlings is an inconsistent, eccentric little book, where luminous windows into other, startlingly beautiful alien worlds mingle with half-baked ideas and LiveJournal posts, punctuated by Walton’s charmingly crabby and acerbic assessments of each piece ... For every piece of absolute magic, there are somewhat more dubious offerings ... while I’d argue that Starlings doesn’t succeed as a short story collection, it’s an unexpected stunner of a how-to manual: here’s the whole pre-banquet kitchen, burnt pots and all, for readers to pick through at their leisure. I defy any writer to come away from Starlings without a dizzying array of ideas of her own, and the book’s greatest reward is its no-holds-barred look at Walton’s messy but generative process.
PanTor.com...Philip Pullman has returned to the parallel world he created with the first installment in a new trilogy ...frustrated with writers’ deployment of sexualized violence as a plot mechanism or way to demonstrate a particular character’s nefariousness. Coming from Pullman, that level of authorial laziness feels like a slap in the face ... It does not help that the female characters of La Belle Sauvage are feeble caricatures in comparison to the brilliantly rendered and immensely complex women of His Dark Materials ...the relative diversity of the earlier trilogy is almost entirely absent...a disappointment that the grandly realized ambitions of His Dark Materials feel muted in La Belle Sauvage; for me, the book holds little of the wonder and even less of the wise and well-seasoned hope of its predecessors ...can’t help longing for the Belle Sauvage that could have been.