cover image The Splendid City

The Splendid City

Karen Heuler. Angry Robot, $14.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-85766-985-8

Heuler (The Inner City) throws together a young witch, an egomaniacal cat, and thinly veiled allegories in a quirky coming-of-age story that never fully delivers. Eleanor and her arrogant, misogynistic roommate, Stan, do not get along. So, she curses him, transforming him into a bow-tie-wearing, beer-guzzling cat. As punishment for her rash spell-casting, her New York coven exiles her and Stan to the new country of Liberty (formerly Texas). The president of this humourously depicted dystopia distracts citizens from the dire water shortage through endless parades and stunts, including a treasure hunt. As Eleanor occupies herself with the search for the missing water witch, Daria, who she believes may be key to understanding the draught, shadowy figures lure Stan with the promise of hidden treasure, and both roommates attract the attention of some powerful political players. The whimsy and topical satire ought to carry this, but Heuler keeps things disappointingly shallow, with a thin plot and characters as two-dimensional as Liberty’s propaganda newsprint. While the ingredients are enticing, brought to a bubble, this witch’s brew fails to pass the taste test. Agent: Christine Cohen, Virginia Kidd Agency. (June)