...[a] powerfully disorienting and brilliant novel ... Priest works a series of meditations on memory and inspiration, on the relationship between place and art. The Gradual is a time travel story, but one unlike any other I have read...[Priest] carefully constructs a much more filigree, intricate structure to embody its temporal slippage, and it is very much to Priest’s credit as a writer that this always feels coherent ... amazing, haunting, eloquently baffling and clever.
The Gradual doesn’t satisfy in the classic fashion. It’s relatively eventful at the outset, but less and less as the novel progresses. It doesn’t have much momentum, and in its slow moments seems positively stodgy. It’s confusing before it’s clear, maddening before it’s mysterious. You’ll come out of the singular experience of reading it with more questions than you went in with—but read it you should, to be sure, because like a dream, baffling though it may be, it really could renew you. Intellectually, yes—the extraordinary ideas The Gradual explores are, as ever, brilliantly belied by the plainness of Priest’s prose—but also intimately ... The Gradual is a great many things—exhilarating, frustrating, hypnotic, semiotic—but above all else, it’s an inspiring novel about inspiration.