cover image Or What You Will

Or What You Will

Jo Walton. Tor, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-30899-3

Hugo and Nebula Award–winner Walton (Among Others) brilliantly braids somber realism, fanciful metafiction, and Shakespearean-influenced fantasy into a moving paean to the power of storytelling. The unnamed narrator inhabits the mind of Sylvia Harrison, a successful 73-year-old Canadian author. He has appeared, in various guises, as a character in all 30 of her books­­—including a fantasy trilogy set in Illyria, a rough analogue to Renaissance Italy—but he also exists independently of her fiction, if only as a figment of her imagination. Now Sylvia travels to Florence, to draft a sequel both to her Illyria books and Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Though Sylvia is loath to admit it to the narrator or even to herself, the narrator knows that she is dying. Unsure of what will happen to him if Sylvia no longer exists, he devises a plan to save them both by immortalizing them in fiction. Walton shifts effortlessly between Sylvia’s life, Florentine history, and the plot unfolding in Illyria, giving equal weight to the mundane and the fantastic. The narrator’s voice is spellbinding (“What am I? Figment, fakement, fragment, furious fancy-free form. I have been the spark that ignites in a cold winter”), drawing readers into a nuanced meditation on reality and fiction. This gorgeous, deeply philosophical work is a knockout. Agent: Jack Byrne, Sternig & Byrne Literary Agency. (July)