cover image The Curator

The Curator

Owen King. Scribner, $28.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-982196-80-6

King (Double Feature) expands his 2014 short story of the same name with arresting results in this Victorian-esque fantasy that contains moments of both horror and humor. The offbeat tone is evident from the outset, as the novel’s setting, a city nicknamed “the Fairest,” is described as jutting “from the body of the country like a hangnail from a thumb.” The Fairest is in turmoil following a popular revolt, sparked, in part, by the callous shooting of a businessman by a government minister. In the wake of the government’s collapse, Dora, a former servant, seeks to understand the meaning of her beloved brother’s cryptic last words before he’d died of cholera: “Yes. I see you. Your... face.” To that end, she obtains a position in an occult research hub, The Museum of Psykical Research, with the aid of her lover, Robert Barnes, an officer in the rebels’ civil defense force. Her increasingly desperate efforts to ascertain what her brother meant play out against the ongoing upheavals. King’s creative worldbuilding is admirable and he makes even walk-on characters feel fully realized. Fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell will be especially enchanted. (Mar.)