This was such a delightful read and everything I hoped it would be. It swept me off my feet from the very first chapter and carried me off into a world I was sad to say goodbye to by the end. It has immediately become one of my favorite fantasy books and may just be the best book I’ve read so far this year.
The Electrical Menagerie follows dual protagonists Sylvester Carthage and Arbrook Huxley as they stake everything to compete in a talent competition in the hopes of saving their failing business. In many ways, the two characters are polar opposites, which is what makes all their interactions so fun and interesting to watch. Despite having gone into business together, each seems intent on keeping the other at a distance and protecting their own secrets, adding an extra layer of mystery to the book. Both characters are so well-developed that they seem to spring to life right off the page, with complex histories and motivations that kept me fully engaged with them as the story progressed. Other characters are also well-developed and pulled me further into the story. I especially liked Andromeda Skyhawke and hope to see her again at some point in future books.
The setting is fantastic, and for me struck the perfect balance of feeling like a living, breathing world without an over-reliance on extensive descriptions. Blending steampunk and magic and even some scientific elements, it felt like a place I would have been perfectly happy to explore and even live in for a while. The visuals are stunning, and I was truly impressed by the amount of care and detail that went into creating the Celestial Isles and all the magic of the Electrical Menagerie’s performances. I also really appreciated the balance the story struck between some of its more serious subject matter and the fun, lighthearted atmosphere that made it such a joy. It’s a bleak world out there, even in fiction, and it’s nice to read a story once in a while that brings such a brightness and hopefulness in spite of the challenges characters have to endure.
I’ll stop there, mostly because I just don’t know all the words to express how much I loved this book. It was amazing, seriously, and if you think it looks even remotely interesting, you should give it a read. I can’t wait for more.