The New Zealand author of The Vintner's Luck returns with an epic fantasy about a hunt for an ancient scroll box that has survived multiple fires throughout history—including at the library of Taryn Cornick's grandparents. Meanwhile, the murder of Cornick's sister years earlier resurfaces when a policeman, Jacob Berger, contacts her about the cold case. A shadowy young man named Shift appears, forcing Cornick and Berger toward a reckoning felt in more than one world.
I felt that my position in relation to the book’s capacious intellect and imagination and moral purpose was a vertiginous one. It was thrilling and frightening, reading this book ... publishers...should be leaping at the chance to publish something this important, this beautiful, and this much fun ... each time I thought the book was done surprising me, Knox flexed her own golden gauntlet and opened another gate and flung me through it. At the end, I was shaken and grateful for the worlds I’d seen ... When I was finished with The Absolute Book I wanted everyone I knew to read it so I could discuss it with them ... [a] majestic, brain-bending novel[.]
The Absolute Book is a threaded needle embroidering itself into being ... It’s also as much a shape-changer as Shift, moving from genre to genre with dizzying grace ... Reading the book is like holding folds of shot silk to the light, finding green flash in something that looks purple, and appreciating how thoughtfully the warp and weft embrace each other. But when I finished it, I was left wondering whether it had cohered; it felt as if I’d been admiring all the cogs and gears animating a fine watch while uncertain about whether or not it kept time. Hasty resolutions and an odd departure of an epilogue somewhat unbalance the whole. But I’m in awe of it, ultimately, its precision and care, and its wry, understated humor.
The Absolute Book has the feel of an instant classic, a work to rank alongside other modern masterpieces of fantasy ... a tongue-in-cheek homage to...overblown literary detective stories as well as a triumph of literary fantasy, and this knowing, feisty, humorous contribution to the genre is a hefty piece of work. There is a lot to keep track of here, not only in terms of characters but in terms of worlds ... The strands of real-world myth, folklore and fairytale from which Knox weaves the philosophical rationale behind what is in its appearance and mechanics a classic portal fantasy are as richly diverse as her characters, revealing a fluent knowledge of her predecessors as well as a solidly practical grasp of magical storytelling ... a book like Knox’s offers the assurance that a more forward-thinking, experimental strand of fantasy is possible, and thriving.