This is an utterly brilliant and devastatingly brutal fantasy novel that reminds me a lot of (my reading of the first two) Gene Wolfe New Sun novels. The world we enter into it here does not contain a lot of specific context for us to understand much, but moves us through it borrowing heavily from tropes and sources as we watch a character (an exiled woman) move through a fantasy world. As she does so, she clearly starts to question her own surroundings, as we start to question who or what she is and is doing in this world. And almost immediately we jump to a competing story that feels very much like we’re in a different world altogether, and maybe a different story or maybe it’s the same. It reminds me some of Anna Kavan’s Ice in this way, and as a kind of inverse version of Marge Piercy’s A Woman on the Edge of Time or Octavia Butler’s Kindred but filtered through The Sound and the Fury maybe?
On the one hand, I do think a lot of readers from this site would enjoy (well no, not enjoy!), or at least appreciate this novel and what it is doing. I will say that from the beginning, this novel is stark and upsetting and brutal and violent (especially with and about sex and sexual violence) so be mindful of that. And in addition, you have to prepare yourself for jarring and multiple shifts in both perspective, but more specifically in different, simultaneous stories. The novel is structured in a way that it’s always easy to know what story you’re reading at any given time with changes in perspectives and a chapter numbering scheme that makes it clear (once you actually work to figure it out a little) but the thematic, tonal, and mood shifts are quite jarring.