Bingo: Queer Lives; Passport: Sweet weird
It’s no spoiler to say that it was obvious how this book was going to end right from the start, or at least from the moment in protagonist Linus Barker’s train journey when “the gray darkness gave way to a bright and wonderful blue like Linus had never seen before”.
Linus is a caseworker in the drab and regimented Department in Charge of Magical Youth, an inspector of orphanages for children gifted, or afflicted, with traits of myth and legend. Linus is diligent, thorough, has an affection for the children that appears to be lacking in his peers, but also a wilful blindness to their futures when they age out of the system. He knows that idealism has no place in government work.
Summoned by Extremely Upper Management, Linus is sent on a mission to inspect an orphanage for particularly dangerous magical children located on a remote island, a mission that will transform his life.
Transplanted to this world of sunshine and colour for a lengthy stay, Linus loses his tight grip on his emotions and his blind trust in the system. As he gets to know the children, their hopes and dreams, and their mysterious caretaker Arthur Parnassus, he is forced to think about the part he has played in perpetuating a society that fears and distrusts the different and to make some big choices about his own future. Linus has believed that he will always be alone, “dimmer than others … he wasn’t meant to be seen”. Maybe he was wrong about that too.