cover image The Parliament

The Parliament

Aimee Pokwatka. Tordotcom, $28.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-82097-6

Pokwatka (Self=Portrait with Nothing) delivers a nail-biting fantasy thriller that bounces back and forth between an all-too-familiar scene of children and adults sheltering in place in a public library and their distraction during this time of crisis: a children’s novel called The Silent Queen. It’s not the threat of gun violence that they’re hiding from, however, but an attack of “murder owls,” an enormous swarm known to tear through barriers of clothing and into flesh. Among the trapped is chemist Madigan Purdy, who had been volunteering to teach a children’s science class and is unnervingly reminded of her own childhood experience of a school shooting. Now, as the adult in charge, she must turn her efforts to protecting her students. Excerpts from The Silent Queen, which Megan reads to calm the children, provide a necessary respite from the unrelenting tension. Pokwatka manages both a unique exploration of the effects of trauma, especially on children, and a thoroughly moving portrayal of the power of solidarity in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, combined with a healthy dose of rage at the lack of care and effort on the part of the government to combat gun violence. The result is a suspenseful and gripping argument for change. (Jan.)