Review: Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng

34643773My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Date read: November 25th, 2017

Published by Angry Robots, October 2017

Verdict: My feelings are complicated.

Find it on Goodreads.

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

I am conflicted. And as is customary in such cases here are my thoughts, first in listform and then more elaborated.

Pros:

  • Wonderfully atmospheric
  • Convincingly gothic
  • Interesting world building

Cons:

  • Pacing
  • Characters
  • That super gross twist (mostly this).

I found the premise to be absolutely wonderful: Catherine Helstone is on her way to visit her brother Laon – a Reverend and missionary. When she arrives nothing it quite what it seems – the housekeeper is elusive, her brother is gone, and the place she finds herself in is different than she expected. So far it sounds like a number of gothic novels I have read – and the language fit that feeling perfectly. However, her brother is a missionary not in Africa or Asia but in the land of the Fae – Arcadia. The people he wants to safe are not people, but rather the fae.

I thought this central idea was done exceptionally well – I adored how the story mirrored similar stories but always added its own twist. I loved how truly gothic this book (and especially the first half) felt. The atmosphere is super convincing and the whole structure of the book is just stylistically brilliant.It is also predictable in the best way possible: as in, I figured things out just a bit before the protagonist and all the twists and turns made perfect sense in the wider world created here.

You can tell how much research went into this book and how much Jeannette Ng knows. This research was wonderfully included in the story itself and made this so much fun to read – for the most part.

However, there were several things that did not quite work for me. The book is very slow paced and felt thus much longer than its 400 pages. Normally I do not really mind slow-paced books but then the characters need to be convincing. And while I thought Catherine was for the most part a wonderful protagonist, I thought her brother was a bit of a charisma vaccuum. Which is why I thought the book worked much better when he was not on the page.

 

Finally, my main problem with this book is a very spoilery one. So, you have been warned: do not keep reading if you do not want to be spoiled.

I hated the whole plot twist in the middle that quickstarted Catherine’s and Laon’s love affair (yes, you read that right). I do not care if she is a changeling and as such not really related to him (or not) – they grew up together, have memories of each other, they are siblings for all intents and purposes. I cannot deal with sex scenes between siblings.

 

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Angry Robot in exchange for an honest review

 

 

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