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March's End

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This was an excellent book that I have a major issue with.

Family is complicated. We all get that. It turns out that being part of a family that is also the hereditary rulers of a parallel fantasy universe doesn’t make it any less complicated. Who knew?

The Harrow family rules the March, a fantasy world that has more in common with Fantasia from *The Neverending Story* than anything else. You have the mechanized beings in the Clockwork Republic, the sentient teddy bears and tin soldiers and blankets-with-googly-eyes-on-them of the Toybox, the insect-like beings of the Hive, et cetera. The Harrows stand above it all, protecting and providing for everyone, ensuring peace between the realms, and defending the March against the deadly plague known as the End whenever it appears. This is a kind of contagious madness that affects the residents of the March, corrupting them into mindless beings bent on destruction.

There are four main characters to the book: the matriarch of the family/reigning monarch of the March, and her three children. The book jumps back and forth from when her kids are children and her reign is just beginning, to when her kids are grown up and she is dying, with some midway points as the story is spun out. The main part of the story is the period with her dying. The End is threatening the March, yet the Harrows are estranged from one another.

The story is, in the end, about family. It’s about how they fell apart as a family, and the big question is less about the March and the fight against the End then whether or not they can reconcile and find each other again.

It was, on the whole, an excellent story. All four are very human in their desires and their mistakes. The past doesn’t magically go away, but people can and do grow and move on. All very well done.

So as to my major issue: one of the characters (and we’re supposed to be sympathetic to all of them) does something I regard as an unforgivable crime, and though no one approves of it or anything, there also isn’t really any blowback. About the only thing I can say without spoilers is that it’s not a thing I would provide a trigger warning about. But I found it very hard to move past.

So on the whole: recommended, but with a strong “but.”

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Usually I can tell right away how much I will or won't enjoy a book, but March's End managed to surprise me. It's got dark Narnia vibes, but if all the Pevensies were total assholes. We've got battle-hardened veteran stuffed animals, and jack-in-the-boxes carrying out terrorist attacks at the behest of an Orwellian dictator. The protagonists are unlikeable, but not without reason - they demonstrate how the wounds received in childhood can shape one's entire life. This is all right up my alley, and I enjoyed reading every minute of it.

It definitely won't be for everyone. Polansky's prose is beautiful, but skirts along the edge of being overblown at times - for me this worked well with the whimsical and fantastical nature of the story, but others may not enjoy it so much. There are several characters and plot devices that aren't really explained in a satisfying way, and the ending is confusing and feels a little rushed. I think it could have benefited from being a little longer and having some more time spent on these aspects.

I found these things pretty easy to overlook, and I enjoyed March's End much more than I expected to. I'll definitely be checking out some of Polansky's other books. Thanks to Angry Robot and NetGalley for providing me with a proof copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review.

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6 / 10 ✪

The Harrows are your typical suburban family. They’re your lawyers, your landscapers, your teachers, your postal workers, your drug-dealers, your students, your friends, your neighbors—everyone you know and love, and everyone you love to hate. They throw the best parties and have place family above all else.

Behind the veil that separates this world from the next, the Harrows rule and protect the March, a kingdom of a thousand peoples—animate toys, sentient lichen, giant snails, anthropomorphic bees, terrestrial nautili, savage wilders, and so many others. Though none can tell you how or why or when they discovered the March, the Harrows have ruled and defended the land for generations, uniting it under a single rule. At a certain age, all Harrows come to the March—and make their place in it.

In the past, the March saw all Harrows make their way through the kingdom, but in the modern day, the clan only consists of two: matriarch Sophia, and her heir-apparent, Constance. Yet two more Harrows exist and have visited the March, but have long since ceased their involvement in such matters; the rebellious Mary Ann, and black-sheep John. However, when Sophia lies on her deathbed, and the March is in danger, all the siblings must return to the fold to defend it. And to uncover the horrible truth lurking in its history.

Each sibling is in it for their own reasons, but all are after the power at the heart of the March, putting them all in competition for its crown. First, however, they must unite to save it. After all, The End is coming, and it will not be stopped by anything less than a miracle.

March’s End is one of your old-fashioned through-the-looking-glass fantasies, a world where the rules regarding entry are loose and the bloodlines that govern it are a family affair. It is very much like a dark glimpse into Narnia at its lowest; a place where children go to grow up quickly, not a world where children learn through adventures and friendship. John hasn’t returned to the March since he was a child, Mary Ann since the incident that has defined her entire life. Both have their reasons, and both have avoided the realm to make their way in the real world.

Not that their lives are any better for it. One is borderline delusional, the other an addict flirting with suicide. Constance is the only constant—who stayed when her family needed her, the heir-apparent, who has thrown away her entire life (and marriage) for service to the March. As characters, each is flawed in their own (human) way. Such is each intriguing in their own right. Though some are more resistant than others, all eventually come back to the fold when their mother falls ill. And all return to the March. Constance is known, loved and feared in equal measure, the March’s protector and champion. John is the wildcard—possessed of a strange magic that lets him wield darkness as a cloak. And Mary Ann couldn’t stay away even if she wanted, coming and going from the March practically at will—but even worse, involuntarily, sleeping and waking, at all hours and for any reason. They make for an interesting mix, each bringing a different approach to the same problem.

March’s End is told in two parts: one, in the present day, 2023; the other starting in 2000 and continuing to jump forward through the Harrow children from there on. In general, this made for a rather dry opening, though matters do quickly heat up. Not everything in either timeline involves the March. There are parties to attend, schoolwork to do, jobs and lives and relationships to maintain. We catch glimpses of the outside world and its (mostly vague, unimportant) residents. We focus on their outside lives at first, Mary Ann and John especially. We accompany the children on their introductions to the March, and see the place through their eyes. In addition to them, however, we also gain the insight of Sophia’s husband, brother, and mother from the histories, before coming back to the present to see just how that certain fallout has affected their lives, and the world of the March.

As a kind of dark Narnia, March’s End works quite well—until it doesn’t.

See, imagine trying to distill the magic of C.S. Lewis into a single entry—one not even 500 pages at that. Now imagine trying to put your own personal spin on that, again without lengthening the book at all. Sounds kinda hard, right? I mean, to tell a story under such restraints, you’d have to gloss over… kind of a lot. Which we definitely do. From the inner workings of the March to its boundaries, from even the most basic descriptions of its denizens to the first thing about its ancient evil. Really any kind of pre-2000 history, like, at all. And if you thought the buildup was a bit light on material, the afterword isn’t any better. Let’s say the ancient evil is defeated—well, how? And what was it, anyway? You’d think we would learn at some point. Okay, so let’s say the evil fully engulfs the land, driving the Harrows from it. What then? What’s next for a family torn between worlds, a family that apparently knows know other existence? Again, you’d think we’d find out, but we don’t. Obviously, only one of these comes to pass—and as a dark fantasy, it really could be either one. But the amount of detail the reader receives upon completion of the plot leaves quite a lot to be desired.

It took me a little to get into the the story, but once I did—while disappointed by the overall world-building and lack of lore behind it—I managed to get relatively invested in the tale. But come the end, we are given a skeleton crew, the rough designs for a dhow, and told to sail into the setting sun. Quickly. While the story does technically fulfill its brief, it is only very brief in its fulfillment—and ends up leaving a bitter taste even weeks after completion. There’s just so very little that we’re granted, instead allowed to draw our own conclusions—more <i>forced</i> to draw our own conclusions about so many things that the book just never got around to telling us. Yes, there is a decent ending. Yes, it does a <i>decent</i> job of tying up loose ends. But it is sudden, at best. I had so many more questions about the March, about the Harrows, that were just never answered. Mostly, they weren’t even addressed at any point. Like John’s strange shadow power, they’re often simply taken for granted and not even questioned once.


March’s End is a kind of dark Narnia style through-the-looking-glass fantasy, distilled down into one, relatively succinct, book. If that sounds hard, there’s a reason. It glosses over so much, particularly so much of the world-building, often taking even obscure things as rote, or for granted. While March’s End does tell a complete, even somewhat powerful, dark fantasy tale—it leaves a lot to be desired along the way. The Harrows are what make the March exceptional, at least in so much as anything in the March can be called exceptional. And it kills me to say such a thing about a magic fantasy world. The characters and their interactions are what the book does best, the story itself a bit of an afterthought. The world and its ill-formed creatures are merely forgettable, and anything more about the March is bare-bones at best—a menagerie of half-finished sketches and stick-figures on smudged, paper napkins. Come to the March for the story, for the characters, stay for nothing more.

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March’s End by Daniel Polansky isn’t just a portal fantasy but a book about intergenerational conflict and the impact of childhood trauma. There was so much I really loved in this book but there were a few things I struggled with.

I received a copy of this book for a free and unbiased opinion.

The author brings to life the world of the March in vivid technicolour. This is a world inhabited by living toys who torture, sentient plant beings that don’t hesitate to kill and talk, rebelling animals. The sense of impending danger and doom is present from the start and infests the book both in March and the real world. I loved the tower- a building that seems to go on forever.

The complicated lives of the Harrows, the conquerors and protectors of the March take centre stage in both worlds. The Harrows have had their role over generations and seem stuck with continuing this for generations more no matter what the trauma.
The family drama between the siblings feels realistic and I like how they are not neatly resolved by the end of the book. The pace is fast with plenty of action and magic with plenty of creepiness. Mary Ann and Sophia’s brother bring in the discussion around whether colonisation is right or wrong concerning the March even though the Harrows are protectors which isn’t usually present in these types of fantasies.

I struggled with a lot of ‘how’s’, How do the Harrows travel to the March and why Mary- Ann can travel there differently? Why was it only the Harrows that could travel? How did Hank end up living next door to the Harrows and why?

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A dark fantasy built on the backs of a broken family; the Harrows lead two lives in two different worlds.

There was so much packed into this book; the worlds, creatures, lore, etc.
It’s fantastic, but could become a bit overwhelming at times to read and keep track of everything going on.

The characters were ok, but I didn’t feel a connection with them. It made me feel disconnected from the story and I did skim at times.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author & Angry Robot for a copy.

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Wow what a passionate and well-crafted portal sci-fi fantasy of what it means to survive in a crazy turbulent world. I have to be honest and say I didn't love this as much as other books I have read from Daniel Polansky. 25 years of character development packed in a short book with so much family drama. It was defiantly a unite book!

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Another Narnia for adults. There seems to be a plethora of books out dealing with this subject matter. I found it hard work and quite confusing. Saying that I am sure other readers will enjoy it more just not for me.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC in return for giving an honest review.

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Perhaps this will change, since I seem to have read quite a few of them lately, but I still have a soft spot for portal fantasies. And I found Daniel Polansky’s work quite intriguing when I previously read him at novella length. And somehow I haven’t read many books in the last year with truly weird ecologies, and Bingo season is almost over. Put it all together, and it was time to pick up a copy of March’s End. 

March’s End tells the story of one suburban family and their second lives as rulers of The March, a bizarre and fanciful world of sentient trees, mammals, mollusks, bugs, bots, toys, and more. We see through the eyes of Constance, Mary Ann, and John, from their childhood when their parents began grooming them to lead The March, to their adulthood as they’re forced to take up their posts amidst crisis in The March and personal crises back on Earth. 

Rather than telling a linear story of the three children becoming adults and taking up their rule, March’s End jumps wildly through the timeline, skipping back and forth between childhood and adulthood and gradually filling in the pieces in between. It doesn’t reveal the ultimate ending up front, but it does skip quickly from the children’s first visit to the March to the week of the story’s ultimate conclusion, leaving the rest of the book to gradually fill in the 25 years of character development leading to the present state of disarray. 

And this style is generally effective from a character perspective. The reader knows that Mary Ann and John were estranged from their family and want nothing to do with the March, which gives the flashback sections the tension of waiting for the other shoe to drop. On the other hand, it tends to neglect the immediate aftermath of the other shoe dropping, leading the reader to fill in the details from context clues or secondhand commentary on offscreen actions. Again, from the character perspective, this works well enough. We see the innocent childhoods, the life-changing traumas, and the long-term aftermath. The details in between can be assumed easily enough. But the character climaxes are not always plot climaxes; often enough, the character climaxes are inciting incidents for the plot. So even as the personal stories make sense, the world-level story is missing many of its most epic moments. That’s clearly an intentional choice on the part of the author, but not always a satisfying one. 

Perhaps related to the jerky plot progression, when we do, at the end, get a world-shaking epic, it’s so grand that it can be hard to connect. The March is a huge world with so many factions and creatures that the descriptions feel like background noise. Yes, some factions come more into the forefront than others, but even those have the tendency to blend into an amorphous horde, and we don’t know them well enough to generate real emotional investment. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of small character stories within the epic that do the story justice, as Mary Ann and John are brought back into the fold and Constance learns how to manage a semi-unified family. It’s very much not an ending that wraps up all of the details, leaving with so many background questions about the world unanswered and the specter of future conflict looming in the distance. That said, there’s enough short-term payoff for some emotional satisfaction. And the unanswered questions don’t feel like cliffhangers so much as intentional ambiguity. 

Overall, there are messy characters aplenty and a bunch of good arcs. And if none of the characters are totally likable, they aren’t totally dislikable either. But this is mostly a story of family drama—the big, weird world feels more like background than anything, and climactic plot moments happen off page more than once. For me, the mix makes for a story that I enjoyed reading, but probably not one that I’ll remember among my absolute favorites at the end of the year. That said, your mileage may vary depending on your attitude toward the balance of character, plot, and world. 

Recommended if you like: family drama with weird portal fantasy backdrops. 

Overall rating: 15 of Tar Vol’s 20. Four stars on Goodreads.

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March's End by Daniel Polansky is a captivating modern-day fantasy tale that follows the Harrows, a suburban family who bears the responsibility of protecting and ruling the March, a fantastical secondary world. While they appear as ordinary citizens in the daytime, at night, they embrace their supernatural duties, guarding the March's inhabitants against external dangers. However, beneath the dreamlike exterior, the Harrows have dark secrets and bitter internecine quarrels that threaten the March's existence.

The Harrow family is composed of Sophia, the High Queen of the March, and her three children: noble Constance, visionary and rebellious Mary Ann, and clever and amoral Will. The story moves between their youth, adolescence, and adulthood, tracing their fracturing and reconciliation as they face a conflict that endangers not only the March's existence but also the real world. Sophia is a brilliant and calculating matriarch, always planning ahead to ensure her family's protection and the March's continued existence.

One of the strengths of March's End is the detailed world-building that Polansky employs. The March is a fantastical world populated with animate antiquated toys and sentient lichen. Cities are carried on the backs of giant snails, and thunderstorms can be subdued with song. Polansky's imagination is on full display here, and it's hard not to get caught up in the enchanting imagery. The March feels like a real place, with its own history and mythology that the Harrow family is both a part of and beholden to.

Overall, March's End is a beautifully written and engaging fantasy novel. Polansky creates an intricate and vivid world that readers will love exploring alongside the Harrows. The characters are complex, flawed, and believable, and their struggles and triumphs are compelling. The plot is well-paced and keeps readers hooked until the very end. Fans of modern-day fantasy and intricate world-building will find a lot to love in March's End.

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Thank you so much for allowing me to read and review your titles. I really enjoy the opportunity!

I do appreciate it and continue to review books that I get the chance to read.
Thanks again!

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I didn't enjoy this book and didn't get past the first couple of chapters. I thought I'd love it but unfortunately I didn't. It would be a prefect read for a fanasty reader but not for me.

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3.5 Stars

This one was a really difficult one to rate. There were a lot of things I absolutely loved about it, but unfortunately some things I struggled with.

This book is partly set in "our world" and partly in "The March". The March is a fantastical world full of all sorts of weird and wonderful fairytale type creatures. There's a city of living toys, a city of clockwork creatures, a hive of huge insect-like creatures, a forest of tree worshipping carnivorous peoples and so much more. Ruling over all of this - our main characters - The Harrows.

The world of The March is truly wonderful. I loved every little gimpse into the different societies and creatures that live there. This world is so great that I was actually a little disappointed that it was not given more time. I would have loved to experience the world a little more and learn about it that way rather than just be told about it.

The story jumps back and forth between timelines which is easy to follow along but also within those timelines there are weird jumps in between chapters where you just have to kind of assume what happened in between. It almost felt like there were pages missing or something. Maybe a casualty of editing. There was also a few things that as a non-American, I had to look up such as local terms for places in LA. Not something you usually have to do in a high fantasy book!

I have mixed feelings about our main characters. I'm always a fan of morally grey/realistic characters but I did struggle to like the three siblings. The constant bickering was exhausting and I eventually ended up disliking all of them.

The actual main storyline of The March being consumed by a dark zombie-esque pandemic seemed barely explored and didn't really make much sense.

Overall I was just left with a LOT of questions but feel that this world and this story has so much potential and I just wish it was given the time and love it deserved.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review

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It would be easy to say something facile like ‘Narnia for adults’ but in a sense that’s what this is. It dials up the eerie whimsy and darkness of portal fantasy and tinges the wonder with unease. It’s richly layered, intelligent and told in the author’s unique style. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of his books that read like anything else. He very much blazes his own trail. This was a stand out success.

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7/10 stars

My full review on my blog (link attached).

Polansky’s new book offers his trademark blend of gritty realism and fantastic flights of fancy. It’s casually cruel, in love with the melody of its own language, melancholy and tender at times, but mostly, and always – beautifully, clinically detached.

Polansky is sharp. All sharp edges, short witty remarks, quick, astute observations. I do wonder if he fences; those books of his that I have read certainly remind me of fencing – finding the opponent’s weak spot and lunging, without hesitation or remorse. There is certain urgency in his writing, a particular blend of ruthlessness and vulnerability that demands to be read. I enjoy it; it is rather unique in our times of effusive wordy diarrhoea, of sickly sweetness and hand-holding, back-patting cosiness and hidden feelings of authorial superiority. Yup, Polanski is none of those things, thank goodness. His unique second-person-perspective narrative in The Seventh Perfection made that book one of my favourites of 2020, but March’s End is closer in theme and mood to the novella The Builders.

March’s End is a chronicle of four generations of the Harrow family, who during the day live normal suburban lives but at night dream not the American Dream but March – a fantastical land full of strange races and beings, where they rule with an iron fist gloved in velvet. Sacrifice and duty go hand in hand with hereditary privilege; Lewis’s Narnian sketch of the mediaeval concept of a kingdom is utilised here with intriguing results. March is indeed like the barely mapped terrain of our subconscious; the further from the central spire of the Tower, where Harrows rule, the more unreal and improbable creatures, phenomena and features can be found within March. But there is rot in March, too – something dark and corrupting, zombifying everything it touches with unthinking hunger. Even though we nominally meet four generations of Harrows, only one can be truly considered the protagonists: the siblings Constance, Mary Ann, and John. Describing the dysfunctions of this family would take a book on its own; here, their various inadequacies, petty conflicts and resentments, the slow decomposition of familial ties is mapped onto the history of March. Polansky deftly plays with the mediaeval concept of the body politic where king was the microcosmic representation of his kingdom; in this reasoning, the king’s body, his bodily fluids, had a special power dependent on the king’s state – but not only that, the king’s wellbeing was bound with the wellbeing of his kingdom. It is actually a very old concept, present in all those old mythologies and rites where the king was chosen for a year and afterwards slaughtered as a sacrifice to ensure constant virility and wellbeing of his land. Polansky reaches to those, as well, and his March’s End ends up reading at times more like an erudite private play with words and ideas than like a proper fantasy novel.

The fault for this may be put largely at the story itself, which is relatively simple, short and somewhat undemanding. March’s End is a short book, full of descriptions, and busy with jumping between two timelines, trying to cover up the scarcity of the plot with the jumbled fragments of the protagonists’ lives. It ends abruptly, too, after a lengthy buildup everything concludes neatly within a few pages. The characters, with their myriad of dysfunctions and flaws, are hard to like and root for – at least at the beginning. But what March’s End lacks in the narrative department, as well as in character development, it makes up for with the imagination. The fantasy elements here are very strong, even over the top at times. The various life-forms, their biomes and ways of living are depicted with almost childlike enthusiasm, in stark contrast with the descriptions of hte boring, faulty humans. The conversation with the concept and lore of Narnia seems to be at the centre of this novel and informs the plot in interesting, sometimes twisty ways. I can freely admit I like Polansky’s take on the problem of Narnia much better than Grossman’s one – not only is the former much less slavishly attached to Lewis’s formula and structure, but it’s also less childishly malicious when tackling the undeniable influence of this staple of children’s literature. That is not to say that March isn’t suitably darker, grimmer and way more brutal than Narnia – it is, many times over. But Polansky isn’t interested in tearing down Lewis’s Narnian edifice, he’s much more interested in creating his own, with his own host of strange, fantastical creatures, edging boldly into horror territory, playing with words, concepts, and children’s ideas of life, even in – or maybe especially in – inanimate objects.

It’s not a flawless masterpiece, far from it. But it’s enjoyable, erudite, ambivalent and entertaining. It’s an invitation to play along, explore and discuss the ideas, scoff or snort at the alliterations and extravagant words gleefully sprinkled within the text for the pleasure of the writer and the reader both. It’s short, and fairly unique: worth your time.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

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I think I have a problem I'm going to term Dark Fairytale Fatigue. I feel like I've read a slough of books recently that all follow a similar structure: a twisted, sad/evil Narnia-esque land that serves as a metaphor for corrupted innocence, a cast of equally depressed adults serving as a similar metaphor for corrupted innocence, mix the two together and you get an edgy allegory for the pain and suffering of growing up. I have never loved this trope, being an enjoyer of more hopeful and optimistic fiction, and feel like the version Polansky offers has elements of novelty that still failed to make a statement that was fresh or unique. I struggled to connect with the siblings at the center of the story, or honestly even grew to like them very much (with the exception of Constance - something something Oldest Daughter syndrome), but I did like the multigenerational style of the narrative and the way it slid back and forth between the children's youth and adulthood and their family across the ages. The concept of the End was highly compelling, and my desire to unravel the mystery of its cause drove my attention through the majority of the book. While I can't say this book made much of an impression, it was well-written and adequately paced and I could recommend it for fans of Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series or more recently Adrian Tchichovsky's And Put Away Childish Things.

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This was a case of wrong book/wrong reader - I was really intrigued by the premise, but quite literally from the opening pages I struggled to connect with any of the characters or the plot. I think this writing style and my reading style just don't mesh and I wasn't able to finish.

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March's End by Daniel Polansky, a good premise but simply not for me. I do think others will enjoy the book, and thank you for giving me a chance with this book.

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It’s hard to know where to rank this, mainly because it is one I definitely feel needs a second read to truly grasp some things. Someday I may annotate the heck out of a physical copy. Even then, it does seem there’s some things in here that go unanswered. This book has different time periods and locations, going back and forth from the real world to the dreamy world of March. While it is a complaint that it is a bit hard to follow, I feel like the weirdness and dream quality here is done well, and does by its nature lead to some ambiguity. I’m also not mad at it that I missed some stuff, because it’s going to push for an interesting reread. In short, don’t go into this expecting fully clear cut answers to everything here, Just enjoy the ride.

Note: arc provided in exchange for honest review

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I read March's End by Daniel Polansky as an ARC via Netgalley. I really didn't know what to expect with this one going in. The dream-like back and forth between the real world and the March and between different periods in time was a little disorienting at first, but I figured I'd go with it, eventually realizing it was a Narnia-like situation but without the heavy-handed religious overtones and a far more damaged family and a far more weird magical realm. There's really not a lot of exposition, and I have a lot of questions about things that I'm not sure if I just missed the first time through or if it's genuinely unclear. The dream-like quality never goes away. The language in this story, especially during passages that take place in the March, is insane. Filled with proper nouns and lesser-known nouns and alliteration and harkening back to an imagination that is much older than the current age. I had to look up a lot of words. I added quite a few words to my 'favourites' in my dictionary app. To be clear, I never felt overwhelmed, rather it created the atmosphere I think/hope the author was going for. Language is probably this book's biggest strength. There were whole passages where, even if I only got the gist of it, sounded <i>cool</i>.

Overall, it's hard to say where I rank this book. I definitely enjoyed it and I can't be too critical of a book that taught me so many interesting words and used them in neat ways. I am not entirely sure I'm satisfied with the ending but I'm not entirely sure I ever fully understood what the hell was going on or even if I was supposed to. I might actually read this book again when it comes out proper. People who really enjoyed Piranesi by Susanna Clarke may be interested in this, it's not totally the same vibe but comparison could be made, vaguely. If you twisted my arm for a rating, I might say 7/10, which I'll round up to 4/5 for Goodreads.

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This is a very impressive book. Well written in every sense. The characters are so well drawn, the personalities of a wide range of characters distinct and clear, with a minimum of words used. The words themselves, perfect. This is written storytelling at its best. The tale itself is highly interesting and engaging, though dark, with the Harrow family transporting to an alternate magical world as they sleep. Each of the family members is deeply flawed, there is love but also great harm shared between them. The story is mainly told from the perspective of the three children of the matriarch and queen, Sophia, partly as adults, partly in flashbacks to their childhood. Sophia is not an entirely evil queen or mother, but her children are not thriving. Constance neglects her marriage over filial duty. Mary Ann is floundering in her career and relationship, and is on and off meds after being institutionalized after a suicide attempt. John is antisocial and nihilistic, after having his face terribly disfigured as a child. Sophia is verbally abusive and scornful of her husband, somehow causes the death of her brother, and does not demonstrate much caring for her estranged children. Though extremely gritty and grim, and far from uplifting, there is hope in the ending. The three children somehow pull together for each other in their broken ways, and you really want them each to be ok. Though half set in a magical land, this story feels very real.

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