Member Reviews

2.5 stars

Eleanor has been sent to the new state of Liberty as a punishment for transforming her co-worker Stan into a talking cat.
Sharing an apartment with Stan is bad enough, but there is something very strange happening in Liberty - water is rationed, people are taken away in vans, and a witch has disappeared.
While Eleanor investigates what happened to the witch, Stan is determined to win a treasure hunt and will do anything to reach it first.

The premise for this book really intrigued me, especially the fact that the protagonist turned her co-worker into a talking cat.
Eleanor was a likeable and relatable protagonist. I really liked that she wasn't perfect.
Stan was an pretty awful character, but it was interesting to read from his perspective.
The setting of Liberty was interesting, and I can easily imagine something like that happening in real life.
The plot was mixed for me - while I did enjoy finding out more about Eleanor, Stan, and what was happening, my interest did wane and I struggled a little with the writing style.
I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

Overall, this was a mixed read.

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Enjoyable book. Got stuck into this from the first page and didn’t want to put it down. Would recommend.

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This was mostly just fine. The wordbuilding was interesting but the plot didn't do an awful lot for me. It's a shame, I was excited to try this author but was ultimately underwhelmed. The cover, however, is gorgeous!

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The Splendid City is an excellent satirical novel that is both fun and very uncomfortable to read.

First, the satire. The hints of and even distinct parallels to current affairs (mostly US, but creeping in worldwide) are clear and worrying. The Splendid City is set in a dystopian alternative reality where the state is failing, surveillance is constant, public information is nothing but lies and misinformation, and general fun and games helps to distract people from what is really going on, I say 'alternative reality' because there's magic. It's integral to the story, not least because it serves as a metaphor for public acceptance of lies and obfuscation. A cat talks – and nobody bats an eyelid. People disappear – and nobody asks any questions.

As for the fun — it's highly entertaining – some of the dialogue is very funny – and very well written. It has a strongly feminist slant, with witches. And did I mention the talking cat?

I completely approve of the recent massive trend of interest in witches. More than ever, women need to stand together, realise how powerful they are together and resist the forces trying to put them down. Women are more at risk now than they have been for several generations, as mysogyny and right-wing extremism soar.

So even if magic and alternative realities aren't your usual fare, I do recommend to give this novel a try. It has a lot to say.

P.S. - Isn't that cover gorgeous?

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Angry Robot for an advance copy of The Splendid City. All my reviews are 100% unbiased, no matter how I receive the book.

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Ripped right through this unraveling mystery about a young witch, a talking cat, and way more! Loved how this was forward thinking fantasy mixed with a dash of a dystopian sci-fi, with states declaring liberty from America, water rationing and the paranoid and vain leader maybe perhaps behind it all hitting a little close to home.

Good thing there are witches!

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In the state of Liberty, water is rationed, free speech comes at a price, and paranoia runs deep. Eleanor, a rebellious young witch, has been put under house arrest with her lecherous co-worker Stan, who loves craft beer, fish tacos, and… shooting people.

Eleanor has little time for Stan. That's why she turned him into a talking cat. Besides, she's got a job to do: locate a missing witch who seems to be mysteriously linked to the water shortages. But she might want to keep an eye on Stan – he's caught the scent of a treasure hunt, and won't hesitate to give up Eleanor to get his paws on the prize.
Karen Heuler is a literary sci-fi/fantasy author, whose stories have appeared in hundreds of magazines. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, and the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction, among others. She has published four novels, four story collections and a novella. She also teaches fiction writing at NYU’s School of Professional Studies.

Rate : 3.75 out of 5
Thoughts : This is a great book even though I usually don't read scifi. Highly recommend this book for a scifi lover out there. Thank you Netgalley for the advanced copy!

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One of the most unique plots that I've ever read however I do think it was not well crafted enough. Here's why:

Plot: Love that it has interesting topics about police, climate change, and even authority. This theme kind of has a grotesque vibe to it. But the talking cat and witch intrigued me to keep going with the book.

World-building: I would love it if the author had not been too info-dump and neatly arranged the narrative creatively.

Characters: The interaction between those characters is really interesting. Sometimes they have their humor, sometimes I can't understand what they.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read for me!

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I enjoyed this surreal novel; it blends sci-fi, magical realism, satire and fantasy.
Eleanor is a modern witch, living under house arrest in the newly-established country of Liberty (previously known as Texas), with her co-worker, Stan, who she has turned into a cat. As chaotic as it sounds.

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Welcome to Liberty. An independent state, free from all the politics and machinations of the United States' government. However, its citizens recognize that it's simply a matter f swapping one government for another and here paranoia runs high - and for good reason.

Eleanor navigates her free state while exploring her newly discovered (or newly defined) magical powers. She's invited to join the local witch coven, who will help her understand and use her powers. But there's a testing period where the coven needs to get to know Eleanor and she them.

Eleanor is given a task by the coven leader to help another coven search for a missing witch, Daria. Daria may be linked to the water shortage that Liberty is currently experiencing. Eleanor wouldn't mind this mission, but she's stuck with Stan, a beer-drinking, talking cat. Stan used to be Eleanor's co-worked until she transformed him into his current form after an unpleasant incident.

This book is one of the wildest, most creative speculative fiction novels I've read in awhile. It's definitely not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you don't mind a wild journey, this is worth a shot for you.

The book plays with time a little bit. We start in the middle of the action and only later in the book do we go back to get some of the history. This caught me off guard and I had to go back and re-read a couple of things to make sure I was understanding what was happening.

Stan the cat is hilarious. I generally don't enjoy the talking cat ideas in a lot of fantasy, but this one, who had been a pretty selfish, jerk of a human being and who really hasn't learned his lesson even yet, was a perfect foil for Eleanor.

One of my favorite moments in the book happens about 2/3 of the way through. Eleanor is being tested by the coven. Part of the test is having witches compete with one another and the competition gets to Eleanor - feeling more pressure to 'win' and she takes a shortcut and her transformation spell causes a plant to die.

The moment hung there again, and Eleanor felt the shame of it. She had cheated, and cheated badly. She looked at Gloria, trying to gauge how severe her punishment would be. Surely she wouldn’t be dismissed, would she? This felt so vital to her now, so much a part of her belief in herself. What would she be if she couldn’t go on to become a full-fledged Wiccan? How would she learn what she needed? “I failed,” she said quietly. “I know it and feel it. I didn’t want Chandler to be better than I was, so I tried to steal knowledge from her, when I didn’t see it.”

Gloria nodded, and to Eleanor’s relief, she smiled. “That’s progress, isn’t it? You can’t overcome your faults if you don’t know what your faults are, can you? So you’re willing to steal. And you’re jealous. And proud. Anything else?”

“Impatient,” Eleanor said. “Acting without thinking.” She waited. “I think that’s it.”

“Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone with those attributes had power?”

“Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone with those attributes had power?” - Wow. That resonated.

This is my first experience with the writing of Karen Heuler (other than a short story back in 2017) and I'm excited to read some of her backlist titles as well as anything new.

Looking for a good book? The Splendid City by Karen Heuler is a creative journey that is part urban fantasy, part supernatural fiction, and 100% fun.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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According to the blurb, I thought this had a very interesting concept! Enter and exiled witch with a cat named Stan that she had to look after. They are bound together to find out what had happened to a missing witch but I feel these two had no chemistry whatsoever and I don’t know why they are put together in the first place.

I appreciate the author trying to create a new dystopian world but it all seemed very messy and not well thought out. I managed to reach the end of the story but I felt confused with what I read and I didn’t understand the purpose of the plot.

Thank you Netgalley and Angry Robot for the arc.

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I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2023 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at <a href="">

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There is something about dual narrative books that make them hard for me to read. I can appreciate the concept of this book, it definitely was different to a lot of dystopian novels I have read in the past, but I question if it was necessary to have the dual POV. Personally, I don't think it added anything to the story

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There's so much I absolutely loved about this book! The voice! The humor! The characters! The social commentary! It's dazzling and sharp; it's funny and smart. (I"m also a sucker for anything Alice in Wonderland related, so, you know, I'm the right audience for this.) The only thing I struggled with was the pacing: after a brilliant Part 1, we were sent back to the past to basically read what happened before, and while this was essential in order to get context on the characters and their backstory, I do wonder if it could have been done is smaller snippets instead, throughout the course of the book, without breaking down the narrative so much. Regardless though, a very fun read, and I will be keeping an eye on this author!

P.S. Thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC to review. I really wanted to get into this book but I could not.

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This book was exciting! I really enjoyed the Splendid City and look forward to picking up a physical copy to add to my personal library!

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Excellent read, I’ll be recommending it!

Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publishers for letting me read an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I thought the Stan, the cat, would be my new favorite character. There is a very distant resemblance to Behemoth from Master and Margarita, but Stan isn't a character that one would love and hate. The dynamic between Eleanor and Stan starts bad and that's intentional which leads to him becoming a cat. But this continues on and I just couldn't stand Stan anymore.

The first third of the novel is absolutely on point which made me continue only to be hit with a wall of information and an ending that works and was okay.

<i>Thank you to Netgalley and Angry Robot for providing me with a free copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.</i>

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My first DNF of the year. I feel like this book had a lot of potential to be great but it just seemed to fall a bit flat. Maybe I just didn’t get the satirical nature with a lot of it but to me it just felt a bit absurd and lacking in the humour I expected and hoped for.

The main characters were incredibly unlikeable and annoying. I found the writing style strange and difficult to read. I’ve seen many people give glowing reviews of this but sadly I just couldn’t find it in myself to finish it when I felt no enjoyment reading it.

Thanks to @netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Splendid City is certainly an interesting novel, even though it ended up not working for me. Perhaps my issue was that I was expecting something entirely different, and perhaps it was that I didn't know what to expect. This novel seemed bizarre, funny, and surreal at first glance, with its cover and synopsis. It was not not those things, but the way the book went about it left something to be desired.

The Splendid City paints an almost Orwellian world - water is rationed, free speech is limited, people are getting abducted, and Texas is now its own country, Liberty. What more could you want from a novel? We follow two characters, Eleanor, an almost witch, and Stan, who's a cat. Eleanor is an 'almost' witch for the same reason Stan is a cat (she is being punished with limited powers for turning him into a cat, even though she was somewhat justified in that). There is a mystery, with Eleanor having to find a water witch, who might be connected to Liberty's drought.

So, this book was not what I expected it to be, while still being what it said it would be. I expected a satirical surrealist world, and it was that. It just didn't work for me. It seems to me that the book was trying to be more profound in places than it read as, or maybe that was just me reading too much into it. The situations were bizarre and weird, and definitely surreal, but it often just seemed messy and nonsensical without getting the point across. It ended up feeling like a bunch of references, metaphors were just listed one after the other, with no seeming connection.

The book is divided into three parts. In the first, we see Eleanor and Stan in Liberty, both 'victims' and villains of their own circumstances. It was Stan's behavior that sent Eleanor over the edge, causing her to lash out, and it was her lashing out without considering consequences and turning Stan into a cat that led them here, forced to live together and coexist. The second part paints a picture of the past, shows Eleanor and Stan's life in NY when they were coworkers, and shows what led them to where they are now. The third part is back in Liberty, picking up where the first one left off, concluding the story.

Now I will say, the second part felt like it didn't belong in the story at all. Liberty is chaos and havoc, with everything being insane and over the top. NY wasn't sane and normal by any means, but compared to Liberty seems great. Also, Eleanor and Stan were completely different people back then, so it really adds a (seemingly) completely unrelated story smack dab in the middle of the existing one. The atmosphere of the first and third parts is definitely the overall tone of the story, and the second part really seemed like it didn't belong. Strangely, the part I enjoyed the most is the second one. It was tame compared to the rest, but this one didn't feel like just a word salad you need to find meaning in. The reason I liked it more might also be the fact that it is one whole, as opposed to the overarching story that got interrupted by the second part. I think maybe if it hadn't been interrupted it would've had more of an impact and been more enjoyable to read.

I think the author had a clear idea of what she wanted to do, it's just that, for me, it didn't translate well in the writing. I definitely see and understand what was meant to be achieved, but it fell flat for me. I don't think it helps that both of the main characters seemed unlikable or not fleshed out enough. I understand Stan was supposed to be unlikable, but he just wasn't a character you love to hate. I just plain and simple didn't like him. Eleanor had more potential in my eyes, but her character felt like it was missing something. The flashback shows us that she has a personality but she just feels like a secondary character in her own story, in a way. Stan and Eleanor's relationship was weird, even in the flashback. They were coworkers, and are 'frenemies', as Eleanor claims, but I didn't like them much. In the NY flashback we see human Stan be creepy and honestly seems to be harassing Eleanor at their workplace a lot. The biggest issue with the characters for me was that there seemed to not be any character growth (especially with Stan, who decides he wants to stay a cat).

All in all, I don't think this is a bad book, but it really wasn't for me. I would recommend you check it out if you are interested, it might work better for you! Especially if you're someone who enjoys disjointed, chaotic narratives with time jumps!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review!

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The Splendid City is a relatively short book but, for me, it wasn’t a quick read because I just couldn’t get into it. The cover, the synopsis, it gives you the idea that this book is quirky, fun and from the opening pages, where a talking cat has a gun, you think that is where this book is heading. Unfortunately this was not the case, the book is scattered, I didn’t really what it was trying to say or it’s purpose.

The story follows Eleanor, a witch, and Stan, a talking cat, both living in Liberty, the state of Texas now turned into it’s own country, where free speech is controlled, water is rationed and the mysterious vans capture people on the street never to be seen again under the orders of the president. Eleanor is being punished for transforming Stan into a cat, and while Stan is content to eat, drink beer and follow clues looking for treasure, Eleanor is tasked with looking for a missing witch.

The book is in 3 parts: in the first part we get to learn about Liberty, the political control, the water shortage and Stan, being careful, eating fish tacos, shooting people he disagrees with. Part 2 we randomly go back to the Stan (pre-cat) and Eleanor before they move to Liberty, we follow Eleanor as she discovers she’s a witch and joins a coven and how Stan is turned into a cat, before Part 3, back to Liberty and the conclusion.

The order and pacing of the book feels scattered, the jump in the middle to the beginning of the story doesn’t feel like additional information that adds to the story but a diversion of it. Throwing you into an usual situation with unexplained characters, the first part of the book is a little confusing so just swapping the order around would have been a help. The witchcraft sections are interesting but overly long while the ending is rushed.
Then there’s the message of the book. The sisterhood of the coven reads very feminist, however the sexual harassment, stalking and misogyny in the book is actually quite glibly covered (I suspect these sections of the book is what earned the synopsis the ‘for fans of Madeline Miller’ suggestion however it is not nearly addressed the same as Miller) and then, even worse, dismissed. These scenes in the middle section aren’t easy to get through because it’s so insufferable and while part of me realises that’s possibly the intent, especially added with the politics in the book (and real life), but it doesn’t feel like it’s addressed enough, it’s simply accepted.
Eleanor grows on you once you learn more about her, Stan however is insufferable, the fun novelty of him being a cat doesn’t last and yet that, and him being a jerk, is really all he is about. Eleanor grows throughout out the pages, she learns her craft, she becomes recognises her flaws and works on them, but there really is no depth or developmental.

Overall this book has potential but it’s just not for me. Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to review this.

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