The West Passage

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Pub Date Jul 16 2024 | Archive Date Jul 23 2024


A palace the size of a city, ruled by giant Ladies of unknowable, eldritch origin. A land left to slow decay, drowning in the debris of generations. All this and more awaits you within The West Passage, a delightfully mysterious and intriguingly weird medieval fantasy unlike anything you've read before.

The West Passage is a dangerous book of secrets.” —Travis Baldree, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Legends & Lattes

“A weird and wonderful tale, rich with imagination and utterly unique.” —Sunyi Dean, author of The Book Eaters

“One of the finest fantasies of this decade, a sweeping swarm of fiercely human creativity.” —Indrapramit Das, author of The Devourers

When the Guardian of the West Passage died in her bed, the women of Grey Tower fed her to the crows and went back to their chores. No successor was named as Guardian, no one took up the fallen blade; the West Passage went unguarded.

Now, snow blankets Grey in the height of summer. Rats erupt from beneath the earth, fleeing that which comes. Crops fail. Hunger looms. And none stand ready to face the Beast, stirring beneath the poisoned soil.

The fate of all who live in the palace hangs on narrow shoulders. The too-young Mother of Grey House sets out to fix the seasons. The unnamed apprentice of the deceased Grey Guardian goes to warn Black Tower. Both their paths cross the West Passage, the ancient byway of the Beast. On their journeys they will meet schoolteachers and beekeepers, miracles and monsters, and very, very big Ladies. None can say if they'll reach their destinations, but one thing is for sure: the world is about to change.

A palace the size of a city, ruled by giant Ladies of unknowable, eldritch origin. A land left to slow decay, drowning in the debris of generations. All this and more awaits you within The West...

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ISBN 9781250884831
PRICE $28.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 36 members

Featured Reviews

One of the most original works of fantasy I've read in years. The West Passage drops the reader into an utterly strange and unfamiliar world with its own complex mythology and history. Tonally, it reminds me of old school fantasy like Garth Nix or Redwall at times, though there are elements that make it more adult. If you're looking for something magical and different, you won't be disappointed.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Tordotcom for the arc! This book was fantastic! Some of my favorite things about it are as follows:

This is for the fans of absurdist and weird fiction, and is a part of the growing niche of absurdist fantasy. I eat absurdist fantasy up and lick the plate like goddamn dog each time, and The West Passage is no different.

This is also for the people who choose side quests over a main quest line. Again, I am one of these people, and again, that’s one thing I loved about this book.

This book has a sure-fire aim. It hits every beat it needs to, and is intentional about every thing it does. It has beautiful and powerful moments, funny and cheeky moments, and balances all of these perfectly with purpose.

This book has teeth. It doesn’t pull punches, doesn’t hold back, and doesn’t hold your hand. It’s often dark, often bleak, and for a book about decay and inevitable destruction, it more than hits the mark. That being said, there is an underlying aura of hope at the end while still remaining realistic about its outlook.

This book has depth. It has clear themes and messages, it shows and doesn’t tell, the world is immersive (I will be talking about the world-building more), the main characters are well-rounded, the side characters are also deeply satisfying, the story itself is rewarding, and the world itself is a character.

Lastly, I would again like to talk about the world building; it’s supreme and masterful. Yes, Brandon Sanderson this and Brandon Sanderson that, but good god this is one of the most vibrant worlds I’ve read about. It feels so alive, even if it’s technically dying in the book. The entire damn book is a masterclass in world-building, and It’s not just the main chapters that have beef. The interlude chapters are pillars in themselves. You may get texts from books, extra characters going about their days, songs and lyrics, other miscellaneous passages. There is so much here and it is so delightful and purposeful. I love it.

So yeah, read this book.

Also, before I forget, this book is definitely for those who love Over the Garden Wall as well. You’ll know if you read it. It even has its own beast.

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The palace is the entire world: five towers dedicated to politics (Black), war (Red), making (Blue), taking (Yellow), and duty (Grey). Each is ruled by eldritch embodiments called Ladies, whose periodic wars over the throne are as awesome as they are catastrophic. And one Beast, waiting to rise again to devour everything. To stop the cycle of destruction, two teens from Grey, Pell (later Yarrow) and Kew (later Hawthorn), are abruptly thrust into adulthood and forced to make sense of the literal and figurative ruins of their society. They are only marginally successful.

The West Passage pairs medieval European imagery with an Alice in Wonderland gone overtly violent. The oddness of dream logic dominates this book. It's never quite clear (to the reader or the characters) how spaces within the palace relate to one another. And causes need not match effects as expected. The narratorial focus is similarly unbalanced, with copious descriptions of the palace structure and the history of its decorations but no more than an off-hand comment when a character has a spoon instead of a face or changes gender (physically?) in their sleep. When combined with experimental writing strategies, this silence sometimes makes it difficult to envision the world or follow the plot. In the same vein, this book is entirely about the journey (and the vibes); the end leaves quite a few plot points unresolved.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but it needs a patient reader with no expectations about how a story "should be structured." It will probably resonate best with people who liked The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez, The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall, and/or The Archive Undying by Emma Mieko Candon.

Thanks to Tordotcom and Netgalley for providing an advanced copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a mix of Jim Henson's Labyrinth and Gideon the Ninth

The Labyrinth for its whimsical nature of things
And Gideon the Ninth for it's state of decay with knowledge lost to the centuries.
Both with that morbid sense of curiosity

It has that sense of wanderlust where you want to explore the world more and more. The narration made you feel like a fly on the wall, following the main characters on their respective journeys.

It's a wonderful tale through and through and I was hooked. There were times it was dark and I wanted to look away but your eyes can't leave the page.

This isn't for people looking for a quick epic fantasy read. This book is for the ones that love to be left wondering. To be left with more questions than answers, and I mean that in the best way.

The narration/POV flip felt like it came out of nowhere, and maybe that is on me and I missed it somewhere. But suddenly it changed to the narrator talking to the reader. Which is fine, I just didn't know it was written that way until about 30% in.
Also I REALLY needed a map. And I hope it gets one in the physical copy. I was so so lost I couldn't keep up sometimes and had decided to just skim over any parts where it talked about directions 🥲

Thank you so much to Netgalley for this eARC. All thoughts are my own.
I cannot wait to add a physical copy of this book to my library

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