Cover Image: The Curator

The Curator

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Here lies a Victorian city, crawling with divine cats, haunted by ghost ships, & drowning in revolution.
The city, nicknamed, "The Fairest", is presented through mesmerizing prose - sentences that glide down the avenues of your imagination, spewing syntactic iridescence to & fro. There's a humor, too, that's woven throughout. It's specific, presented with a certain sophistication yet juvenile all the same.
In the veins of this cityscape, a woman, Dora, seeks answers regarding her brother's mysterious death. Her search for the truth leads her to a curator position at The National Muesum of the Worker, & it's there where this dark, fantastical conspiracy unravels.
With THE CURATOR, Owen King presents a narrative in pieces. Early on, at times, the book feels disjointed. King relays us with small, unrelated vingettes; he seems distracted from the story's central focus. But these digressions prove to be crucial to the latter half of the novel, giving it more narrative complexity.
Sure, at nearly 500 pages, perhaps King gets a little TOO lost in the minutiae of his own story, but when the characters are this intriguing, the world is this enveloping, & the atmosphere is this enriching, it's forgivable.
THE CURATOR is a winding, winding labyrinth, & you'll long to follow the endless spools of twine to their nasty, wondrous, & bitter ends.

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The Curator is a fantastical, complex story with an overlay of horror. It is a multiple POV and can be hard to follow at first. I held out hope that all the characters and scenarios would come together and they did. I enjoyed the second half of the book more than the first simply because I was able to understand the connections.

This book is very descriptive and can make you feel like you don’t have the brain capacity to understand it at times. Power through that feeling and you will be thankful you did! The payoff is a story of love, loss, battle and terror. And who doesn’t love a world where cats are beloved and revered?

This review will be posted on my Instagram (link below) as well as Goodreads and Amazon.

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Start with a city experiencing a revolution of the common people. Add an officer and a maid. Add a talented thief with unique connections. Add a fantastical Morgue ship. Add sinister cats. Add sinister humans. Add a bit of magic. Glue that together with a whole lot of unusual and you have the premise for an original, disturbingly addictive fantasy with a large dose of horror.

I had some ups and downs with this novel. Be prepared to get a little confused along the way. The story line jumps from various narrators to various locations and can be a bit hard to follow. I personally didn’t get a solid idea of what was going on in the novel until I was close to four fifths of the way through. At that point my enjoyment factor jumped quite a bit. There was still a lot of weird stuff going on but a least I was able to follow the story more clearly. Definitely not what I expected when I picked up the book. A unique read. 3 stars.

Review based on a digital Uncorrected Proof provided by Scribner and NetGalley. Thank you!

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DNF @ 11%

I was drawn to this book for three reasons: it was written by Owen King (an author I'd been wanting to try), it features cats prominently as revered figures (huge cat lover here, so figured I'd be into it) and it is described in the publisher's blurb as a "Dickensian fantasy of illusion and charm."

Well. I'm not sure what was supposed to be so 'charming' about this book, but in the short bit I read, I felt far from charmed...more like disgusted. The beauty of a writer like Dickens is that he managed to take bleak, dreary situations and imbue HUMOR and social commentary to make them palatable. It was clear from the start that this book was lacking in the Whimsy Department, and read more like a bizarre sci-fi fantasy tale...but one where the narrator actively talks down to you and uses lots of big words to seem Very Important while not explaining anything well at all.

Throw in a sex scene where the female character has zero self respect and basically acknowledges her lot is to act as an orifice (and after skimming some other reviews, this is one of SEVERAL such instances) and I was wondering where the heck the cats where and why I started reading this in the first place.

There are some other readers who no doubt will be 'spellbound' by King's craft, but I personally feel he should have spent a bit less time pontificating and a bit MORE time curating an interesting plot.

*Many thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for the ARC!*

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This book was bizarre! It was a wild ride and I trusted that the author would weave all of the magic together, and he did. We follow D as she takes the curator position at a weird museum. Characters enter and exit the story along with a long list of cats. King drops leads throughout the novel and the reader must trust that they will make sense by the end! I thoroughly enjoyed this work and hope to see more from the author soon!

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It’s hard to write a review of an Owen King novel without mentioning his famous lineage: his mother Tabitha, in particular, is a very famous author of novels and needs no further introduction. King’s brother, Joe Hill, is an author of comic books and genre novels and is almost as equally well-known. His father is also a writer but is lesser known and has been lately writing dime-store crime novels of sorts that have mostly flown under the radar. His name is Stephen if it matters, and it probably shouldn’t be since he’s a more obscure author. (OK, before anyone throws up their hands and cries foul, yes, I’m being facetious here.) So, you can say that Owen King has talent based on the family that surrounds him, and The Curator, his latest novel, clearly illustrates that he is a man of great imagination. The book seems to be an allegory for the January 6, 2021, insurrection in Washington, D.C., and, as such, is probably going to be best appreciated by those who live in the United States. Readers elsewhere may be a little bit baffled for this is a novel about revolution and a changed land, and what happens when we fail to recognize the past. I think that only Americans will be able to truly appreciate what King’s trying to say by the novel’s end — and, to that end (no pun intended), I must admit that this book might not be everyone’s kettle of fish as it is quite bizarre and surreal, and probably is best categorized as being in the New Weird genre.

The story takes place in a city only known as “The Fairest.” It is a city that is on the precipice of outright war as there has been a change in government. The Curator mostly focuses on the story of a woman named D, or Dora, who wants to find out what happened to her brother Ambrose after he died of cholera. For that reason, she seeks to take over control of The Museum of Psykical Research, where Ambrose worked when D was a child. However, she discovers that the museum has burned to the ground, and is, instead, given control — by her lover and a member of the revolution named Robert Barnes — of the neighboring National Museum of the Worker. Meanwhile, a teenage street thief that D befriends named Ike falls in love with her and has his sights on taking her hand in marriage. Calamity ensues, and there are additional bits about magic, cats and pickled oysters to be had. As such, this is a novel that is less about having a linear plot and one that is meant to dazzle with unconventional scenes of a world on the cusp of a major uprising.

I am of two minds about this novel. As much as I like weird fiction, I found the book to be sometimes hard to follow and get invested in — but that may be because of my nationality as a Canadian and perhaps some of the allusions to the Trump presidency flew over my head. (This goes back to my comment that you might have to be an American to understand what’s going on here.) However, I can be kind and say that I appreciate that King isn’t just sitting on his laurels — he’s reinventing himself. His debut novel, Double Feature, was a more straight-up literary endeavour, and Sleeping Beauties, the novel he co-wrote with his father, was of course more situated in the horror genre. Thus, The Curator is a fantasy novel, so one can be amazed by the fact that King isn’t pigeonholing himself into one type of book that he writes. On the other hand, if you’re churlish, you may point out that that prevents him from being a master of the types of genres he writes about or has consistency in his career. I’m not sure if that’s the case. At the very least, you can admire the fact that King is writing a little differently from others in his family and isn’t just mining the horror genre exclusively to cash in on his famous surname. One truly gets the sense that he’s writing the books that he wants to write, so kudos to him for that.

I found that The Curator shared some interesting commonalities with Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris trilogy. Both are works of historical fiction with Baroque feels to them, and both have urban settings that are a little bit filthy. Therefore, if you’re up for a lot of reading (as the VanderMeer books total some 1,000 pages alone), it might be interesting to read both works at the same time. However, I think The Curator is a work of its own and says something more about the current political climate of the United States. This is not for every taste, of course, and it is a novel that you’re either going to love or you’re going to loathe. This is what I am referring to in this review’s subheading: you can easily be of conflicted emotion around this work and find yourself going down the road of love or going down the road of hate. However, I think one needs to come to The Curator with a bit of perspective — ignoring the political content of the book for a moment. If you love reading and want to try something with a distinctive flavour, then you’re probably going to enjoy reading this book. If you look at the world through a lens of hate, you might not like this book and may easily come to find faults with it. Thus, in the end, it is as the saying goes: your mileage is probably going to vary here. Still, those who are tired of the same old fantasy novels of swords and sorcery will likely find something to enjoy in The Curator. If many readers take that position, it may very well be that Owen King may find himself on an equal footing when it comes to the popularity of his books compared to those written by more famous members of his distinguished and creative family. At the very least, The Curator is a distinctly different novel from what you may have read before. Nothing more perhaps needs to be said.

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Thank you Owen King, Scribner, and Netgalley for this free ARC in exchange for a review. I normally wouldn' t request something just based on the description alone, but a magical Dickensian tale with cats felt like the type of fantasy world I could get lost in for a bit. However, this story was not for me.

Early on I thought the world building was going to be good, and I can see the Dickensian influence in the descriptions of characters and long paragraphs detailing some gritty aspect of the city. After a while this got old, and I almost didn't finish this book a few times; by halfway through I realized that most of these longwinded descriptions didn't move the story forward, or tell us anything about the inner lives of characters. The world building in itself was good, but because it was not balanced at all, it became exhausting.

The way female characters are portrayed in this book is fairly awful and frankly insulting. I kept thinking perhaps that would get better as well; we see the potential for a strong female character who's clearly more clever by far than most of those around her, but her character arc has her continuing to stay with and fall in love with a ridiculous lover, who's bad in bed, a hypocrite to his own revolution, selfish and doltish. Some of the secondary characters seemed to be there for shock appeal as well, and some of the darker and more brutal scenes didn't seem necessary to move the story forward.

I may not be the target audience here. I would not be surprised if this resonates more with male readers, and perhaps horror or thriller readers will connect more with the latter half.

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I enjoyed the plot & prose but I thought it was slow & had too many characters. Also, the "romance" is bizarre. I expect something like that from a book published 50 years ago. Give the woman a vibrator

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*3.5 Stars On My Instagram Account*

"Whatever happens, I'm going to be off my knees..."

Dora, known simply as D, will be more than off her knees in the intricately plotted The Curator by inventive author Owen King.

D, once a domestic worker, now the lover of Lieutenant Barnes, is searching for information about her brother Ambrose who died during a revolution in their land The Fairest. In fact the Lieutenant was once a radical but now has power and all the ego that goes with it; even being a selfish lover to D but that's okay she has own agenda too.

The world building by this writer is all encompassing with cats revered as gods, magic held in high regard and a floating morgue ship that gives a whole new meaning to the walking dead.

Then there are the museums for every aspect of life but the one D believes will reveal what happened to her brother is strangely the only one that has been burnt down. Through her lover she becomes the curator for another museum that she hopes will lead to the truth about Ambrose.

I believe this is the main plot of the story but with almost 500 pages there are many sub plots, an excessive amount of characters, and a reverence for cats that is never fully explained and left me a bit confused the more I read.

The beginning's filled with a great deal of exposition of The Fairest, the end's exciting, thrilling, twisty, and quite satisfying but the middle felt like a separate book of short stories. Now the stories were entertaining for the most part and most had a connection to the surprise reveal but were they necessary? The pacing is a very slow burn, so patience is a requirement when reading this magical realism but I will say I was purring with glee at the end.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via #NetGalley for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

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There will- and should be- a wide and enthusiastic audience for this sprawling fantasy novel but it just wasn't me. That's not to say that King doesn't do awesome worldbuilding (he does) or create intriguing characters (he does). It's easy to draw out that there's a Dickens thing going on - the main character named Dora, the conditions, and so on- but read this for its originality. Who can't love cats (lots of people) but here they are worshipped. All elements that should have made this a positive for me but as with so many fantasies, I got lost. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. For genre fans.

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I loved Sleeping Beauties and I really wanted to become immersed in the world described in the summaries of this book. I just couldn’t. The characters and events were just thrown at me right and left but never fully formed. I never felt I could visualize or create this world or its characters. I could not visualize the events or the setting. It was just cumbersome and difficult to get through.

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This is a long form expansion of the short story "The Curator" by Owen King. A fantastical story of illusion featuring cats worshipped and revered! Set in an unnamed city, we meet Dora, a retired domestic servant who is searching for sign of her brother following his death. She is quick witted and attempts to take over curating a museum where he once worked. Thwarted, she continues to pull at clues, slowly unraveling a conspiracy as well as the end of the world.
Such a treat! Any book that holds cats in such esteem is #1 in my opinion. :)

*Special thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for this e-arc.*

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I received an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and the publisher. Thank you.
Great premise! The story was pretty great and I enjoyed the multiple points of view but overall the characters of felt a little thin and the ending left something to be desired. But I sure did enjoy my time.

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The Curator is the debut novel of Owen King (yes, he is related to that King). It takes place in a nameless city nicknamed ‘The Fairest’, which is in the midst of a revolution where the aristocracy has been overthrown. The city is a bleak place full of little wonders that make it feel unique: the poor worship cats at ancient shrines, a floating morgue ship shows off preserved bodies of famed criminals for the rich to gawk at, and a secret society operates from the shadows. The story mostly focuses on Dora, a young woman who, in the aftermath of the revolution, tries to gain ownership of a strange building called The Museum of Psykical Research. Dora’s late brother was enmeshed with the Museum before his untimely death, and she believes the building holds some answers. Unfortunately, she arrives at the museum to find it burned to the ground, and instead is given curatorship of a neighboring one, The Museum of the Worker. The story unfolds in the aftermath of the revolution and peels back the mysteries surrounding the city, the revolution, and the forces that threaten it.

The Curator is incredibly well-plotted. Honestly, it is one of the most tightly plotted books I've ever read. King manages to weave an intricate web that connects nearly every character the reader encounters, no matter how throwaway they might feel. The background train driver or scarcely-mentioned roommate might end up getting their own POV chapter by the end. This book feels like a love letter to the plotter's muse: seemingly small actions and dialogue end up connecting to one another in elegant ways. These are often quite subtle, and The Curator rewards careful readers. Once I realized this, my entire approach to reading it changed, and I started actively highlighting small things or background characters that stood out. My diligence rewarded me with a burst of endorphins every time I pieced together another layer of the connective tissue. And those are just the ones I noticed—The Curator is a book that begs for a reread almost immediately after finishing, and I have no doubt that more nuances would reveal themselves during a second trip.

If books were rated on plotting alone, The Curator would be an easy five stars. Unfortunately, other aspects aren't done as well. Many characters feel paper-thin, and more like personified bullet-points than nuanced individuals. In fairness, these are often interesting bullet-points, and there are some good moments, but this is a book where plot always comes before character. Personally, I was fine with the trade—the plotting is so precise and there were so many characters that it didn’t bother me that they didn’t have much individual depth.

But what really makes The Curator hard to recommend is its pacing. The intricate plotting reveals itself less as a focused march towards a climax and more throughout a collection of scattered vignettes from multitude of perspectives. In many ways, its similar to a slice-of-life novel, but with much darker themes and tone. The chapters are well-written and I found King's prose to be very consumable throughout (with the exception of an awkward opening), but unfortunately it makes the pacing feel incredibly slow at times. There are a lot of little things happening that seem to have no impact at all in moving the story forward, and while it does undoubtedly move, it does so at a languid pace. It is worth mentioning that this also created a sort of richness to the city, so it isn't entirely without benefit, but I would have still preferred a faster pace.

King's debut is one of big strengths and but weaknesses, and he's undoubtedly talented as a writer. Ultimately, I found the journey of The Curator to be better than the final destination, and I expect this will be a book that creates both vocal admiration and enmity. I simultaneously really enjoyed my time with it, and left wanting it to better than it was. If the strengths appeal to you, and you can ignore the weaknesses, you might find it to be something special.

3 ½ out of 5 stars

You should read The Curator if:

- You like books with intricate plotting where everything seems to connect together.
- You’re fine with slow books that meander towards a destination.
- You’re fine with dark tones and themes—this is not a happy book.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Where to begin. The story takes place in an unnamed city with a rich monarchy and ruling class, and significant number of poor. After a revolution, buildings are being given to those loyal to the revolution. Dora, the lover of one of the student revolutionaries, wants The Museum of Psykical Research, where her deceased brother did work, but the building was nothing more than a burned out shell. Her lover, Robert, changes the paperwork so she can instead have The National Museum of the Worker. She sets about cleaning and repairing the items in the museum. Soon, she notices that things are not as they seem.

Throw in the poor populace that worships cats, a Morgue Ship, political instability, and a murdering government official, along with a legion of other characters and their backstories, and you have this book that slowly plods along to its unremarkable ending.

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Thank you Net gallery for the advanced copy.
This was quite a quirky and different kind of a book. Multiple points of view of well, dying. Sort of. The end was a little choppy but would definitely recommend.

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Unfortunately this book is not for me and I’ll be DNF’ng. I really enjoyed Sleeping Beauty so thought I’d enjoy another book by Owen King, but the Dickenson flavor and prose is just not my cup of tea.

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This book is a really interesting concept; however, I do not think it is really for me. It just didn't resonate with me, which happens from time to time, but it's no fault of the Owen King. I really liked SLEEPING BEAUTIES so I know King is a good and capable author. THE CURATOR is well written, so I would definitely recommend for someone who likes dark mysteries.

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I did not finish this title.

In short, it was cumbersome and the characters were not developed enough to be likeable (halfway in to the book). Characters were dumped in, given a lenghty back story, and then disappeared in favor of someone else.

The concept, the premise attracted me. Odd mix of fantasy and government coup, in what felt vaguely Victorian. It should've worked. And for some readers, it certianly will.

The "romance" bothered me greatly. Clearly, sex was a means to an end. Dora was uninterested and uninvolved--just "lay there and took it" in a way that is demeaning for even an underdeveloped female character. Every sexual encounter felt like amateur porn.

I know this will be a 5-star read for someone, but it's definltely not for me.

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I enjoyed this story from Owen King. Great characters, good story line and CATS! Immense talent definitely runs in the King family, but with each a unique style of their own.

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