The Interminables by Paige Orwin

This book is a textbook case of how a cover can be completely misleading. What looks like a quirky, children’s type of tale is actually a dark, depressive, but beautifully imagined urban fantasy/alternate universe. Our protagonists are battle weary, suffering from emotional trauma, and come with their own myriad of baggage and personality defects. And yet, this is perhaps one of this most interesting, intriguing, and rich books I’ve read this year.

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Story: In a modern US sundered by magic, Edmund is a former magister and the ‘time thief’ – able to ‘borrow’ other people’s time and use it for his own deeds. Istvan is a concept – a ghost like figure that is the personification of war (in his case, world war 1). Istvan is bound to serve Edmund and the magisters. He does so – but uneasily and with his own predilections. The two will find themselves drawn into events from their pasts that did not resolve and now threaten to swallow the world in which they live.

Nothing is as it seems with The Interminables. No one is good, kind, evil, etc. – it’s all shades of grey throughout. And really, the whole tone is one of grey as Edmund drinks to forget the death of his beloved Grace, Istvan mourns the loss of his life and his bindings, and the world tries to recover from the after affects of an immortal who ravaged North America (and destroyed whole cities such as Providence). Both man and ghost go out to take care of magical creatures or other problems; Edmund is considered one of the most powerful of the sorcerers. But always lurking is a sort of PTSD fugue that neither can shake.

It is hard to give this novel justice in words – it all sounds repressive and depressive when written as a review. But I highly enjoyed The Interminables. The characters are nuanced, fully drawn, and very real. The world building is immaculate and intricate, and the plot moves rapidly and doesn’t bog down. Many twists and turns and a surprise ending all reward; author Orwin weaves the plot expertly and thoughtfully.

This is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. Highly depressing, yes, but with a story that is deceptively simple yet incredible complex, it is worth a reread in the near future. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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