I seem to be experiencing a deluge of happy reading. Let me start off this non-review by saying if you told me I had to pick my favourite book of the year, this would be it, no contest. Not because other books aren’t good, but because this is the one that hits me on every level.
I read Under the Poppy – the previous book in this duology(?) – a while ago, and in all fairness I could have done with a revisit before tackling The Mercury Waltz. However, it’s been previously established that I am lazy and I just floundered about until things started clicking together in my mind and I remembered who was who and the intricate knotted web of connections that ties these stories together. Kathe Koja does not pander to her reader. Not the fuck. You keep up, or you go read something easier. And I like it. Yes yes I do. For some reason I quite enjoy it when an author credits me with a little intelligence.
Perhaps because I was expecting her particular style, I found The Mercury Waltz easier to get into than its predecessor; the writing somehow more sinewy and articulated. It is a book without a drop of magic, and yet magic waltzes through it, underlines every breath and pulls every string. It’s a book of puppetry, where the play is the thing, and everything but oh god everything is artifice and lies, even when it’s not.
It’s a book that holds up a wicked libertine mask as a reflection of the truth, and the moral and narrow face of justice as the ultimate perversity. It shows you the way with a deck of cards and spin on fortune’s wheel, and leaves you lost, even so.
But oh god I adore it; so dense and lush and grimy and slick and sexy and loveless and love-full and nnghhhh cities and dirty fumbles in the dark, and moral police and scandalised women and queer boys and actors and spies and taroc cards and games of chance and cheap wine and murder and a narrative that jumps characters in mid-sentence and says impatiently keep up or fuck off, but don’t come whining to me if you don’t know what’s going on and then maybe feels a little sorry for you and kisses you before twisting your nipple and walking away.
I have no idea if it’s a good book by whatever standards these things are held to. I often hate good books.
But this, this I fucking adore.