Sunday Soupçons #10

Posted 8th May 2022 by Sia in Fantasy Reviews, Reviews, Sunday Soupçons / 0 Comments

soupçon/ˈsuːpsɒn,ˈsuːpsɒ̃/ noun
1. a very small quantity of something; a slight trace, as of a particular taste or flavor

Sunday Soupçons is where I scribble mini-reviews for books I don’t have the brainspace/eloquence/smarts to write about in depth – or if I just don’t have anything interesting to say beyond I LIKED IT AND YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO!

I reread a favourite this week to prepare for its sequel!

The Border Keeper (Mkalis Cycle #1) by Kerstin Hall
Genres: Fantasy, Secondary World Fantasy

A 2020 Nommo Award FinalistA Book Bub Best SFF Books of the Summer Pick

"A phantasmagorical picaresque through a lushly realised underworld, populated by a grotesque bestiary of fantastical creatures. . . . This twisty example of the new weird genre examines love, loss and loyalty, packing skilful world-building and a powerful emotional punch into a little over 200 pages."—The Guardian

She lived where the railway tracks met the saltpan, on the Ahri side of the shadowline. In the old days, when people still talked about her, she was known as the end-of-the-line woman.
Vasethe, a man with a troubled past, comes to seek a favor from a woman who is not what she seems, and must enter the nine hundred and ninety-nine realms of Mkalis, the world of spirits, where gods and demons wage endless war.

The Border Keeper spins wonders both epic—the Byzantine bureaucracy of hundreds of demon realms, impossible oceans, hidden fortresses—and devastatingly personal—a spear flung straight, the profound terror and power of motherhood. What Vasethe discovers in Mkalis threatens to bring his own secrets into light and throw both worlds into chaos.

Praise for The Border Keeper
"Beautifully and vividly imagined. Eerie, lovely, and surreal."—Ann Leckie

“A labyrinth of demons, dead gods, cranky psychopomps, and broken all-too-human lives. Hall is by turns wry and lush, genuine and venomous. So can I have the next one already?”—Max Gladstone

The Border Keeper was one of the first – possibly the first – novella to make a real impression on me. I don’t remember what made me excited for it – Hall was a debut author then, I hadn’t read her before, but maybe some of the early praise got to me? Whatever it was, it lived up to its hype then and it lives up to it now.

This is a beautiful, and beautifully strange, book about a man who seeks the help of the mysterious, nearly all-powerful Border Keeper to cross into Mkalis, the world of wonders and nightmares where people are reborn when they die. It was absolutely Mkalis which enchanted me; this world made up of hundreds of individual realms, each with its own unbreakable rules and strictures set by the realm’s Ruler. Parts of it are horrifying – like the crab with a child encased in its shell – and parts of it are breathtaking – like a palace surrounded by waterfalls that fall upwards. I really, really loved exploring this world Hall created; and, for that matter, hearing about her ‘mortal’ realm too, which we don’t see much of but hear bits about.

I have to confess that the actual plot kind of eluded me, and even reading it for the second time, the ending still hit me out of nowhere – I still have no idea where the revelations and reveals came from, if there were clues dropped throughout the text then I didn’t spot them either time I read it – and that’s kind of frustrating. I almost want to read it for a third time to see if I can finally spot the clues, but if I didn’t see them the first two times I doubt I will on a third read either.

Still, the ending doesn’t change how I felt about Mkalis or how much I loved Hall’s prose, and after reading The Border Keeper again, I’m even more excited than I was before to dive into the sequel!

What have you been reading this week?


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