cover image Queen of Clouds

Queen of Clouds

Neil Williamson. NewCon, $15.99 mass market (338p) ISBN 978-1-914953-11-8

Magic affects power dynamics in this inventive but uneven utopian fantasy from Williamson (The Moon King). Artisan Benoit Kim receives a letter from a Karpentine official ordering him to create a sylvan, a sentient wooden mannequin. Unable to resist the command, Kim arranges for his assistant, Billy, to travel with the creature from the Molspur Mountains to the city of Karpentine. When Billy finally arrives, two conniving brothers steal his sylvan—and this theft is just the beginning of Billy’s struggles in Karpentine. As he works to reclaim the sylvan, he becomes deeply entangled in the city’s dirty politics, learns more about the nature of the sylvans, and unearths a secret that will forever change Karpentine society. The sense of mystery surrounding the sylvans propels the narrative, but as Williamson peels away its layers, the tale takes a jarring turn and the sylvans lose much of their importance. It’s a disorienting shift, but Williamson makes up for his flawed plot with superb characterization and fascinating worldbuilding. There’s plenty to enjoy. Agent: John Jarrold, John Jarrold Literary. (Apr.)