The West Passage

Tor.com. Jul. 2024. 384p. ISBN 9781250884831. $28.99. FANTASY
DEBUT Stories are dangerous. They can impart strength, guidance, and belief, but as stories pile upon stories, they can degrade understanding of the past and hide vital knowledge. They can bind people together, but they can also isolate them. In the five-towered sliver of Pechaček’s world, everything, not just stories, is in a state of decay. Buildings are falling apart, lineages have vanished, crop yields are sparse, and magic is diminished. Even when omens of a great Beast appear, competing stories keep Kew and Pell, Pechaček’s teenage protagonists, apart, though they’ve lived in the same Grey Tower for years. They embark on their own quests, giving readers a thorough tour of their surreal world. While there is urgency to save their home, events happen in fairy-tale time—just when they should—allowing side adventures that deepen the protagonists’ understanding of the world. Pechaček (a host of the Tolkien podcast By-the-Bywater) is unafraid to mix sweet whimsy with horror, which keeps readers’ tension high as they’re immersed in this fearsomely lovely realm.
VERDICT This fascinating debut nestles in the intersection between T. Kingfisher’s whimsicality and Premee Mohamed’s far-too-local old gods.
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