ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Polansky is the author of Low Town, recipient of the Prix Imaginales, as well as Tomorrow, The Killing and She Who Waits. His other works include Those Above, Those Below, A City Dreaming, and The Builders. Polansky was born in Baltimore and currently resides in Brooklyn.
Publisher: Angry Robot (May 9, 2023) Length: 423 pages Formats: ebook, hardcover
In this stand-alone multi-generational portal fantasy, the Harrow family drama intertwines with upheaval in a fantasy world they’ve sworn to protect. As expected from Polansky, things get bleak. Fantastic land populated with animate antiquated toys and sentient lichen gets more terrifying than blissful.
Harrow siblings aren’t close. Their personalities clashed since childhood. An accident divided them even more, disfiguring one of them. Constance (Mama‘s golden girl) has a family and tries to keep things together, Mary Ann (a rebel) drifts through life with no goal, and Jonh… well, all of them are damaged but John most of all. Dark secrets and bitter quarrels fractured familial bonds, and each of them deals with trauma and other significant issues.
The premise is great – a typical suburban family leads a normal life (in various professions) but at night they also rule the March – a secondary world where giant snails carry cities on their backs. Polansky’s imagination shines – the March surprises (and terrifies) on every step. With its diverse and complex society and rules, it continues to surprise readers.
The story jumps in time between the present and past, allowing readers to understand the situation and reasons for the protagonists’ troubled relationships. It also shows how March becomes a dangerous place to be. While I appreciate Polansky’s imagination, I didn’t fully connect to the secondary world plot. I found Jonh and Mary Ann’s arcs much more interesting and personal.
I like antiheroes and morally grey protagonists. People here are complex and I appreciate it. Sadly, they lack the charisma, personality, or agency to make me really care. It’s deeply subjective and I’m sure other readers will identify with them more than I do.
In the end, I have mixed feelings about the book. It’s intelligent, well-thought-out, and hits all the right story beats to make readers care. The real-life arcs of siblings immersed me, however, I didn’t fall in love with the world of March. Yes, I found it fantastical but also tiring. Polansky’s craft is top-notch, so don’t let my review stop you from giving it a go!