Steph Swainston's debut, The Year of Our War, is a vigorous and peculiar novel perfect for fans of either the old style or the New Weird. Jant, The Messenger, is the lone flyer in the Fourlands and has been tasked by the emperor with delivering messages to the Immortals of the Castle Circle and bringing back news of the Insect War. However, Jant is addicted to a drug that takes him to a parallel world where he meets with deceased friends and where his actions may have consequences in the Fourlands. One of the youngest the emperor has raised up to the Circle of Immortals, Jant has tried to stay out of the vicious feuds within the Circle. But with the Insects increasingly ravaging the Fourlands, the strains within the Circle come to a head and soon there is all-out war within the human camp. Meanwhile the Insects, huge ravening things bigger than humans, begin multiplying exponentially and it becomes clear that something has changed and drastic steps need to be taken. Despite Jant's addiction and constant need to get away from the world, the war and his friends to shoot up, the reader sympathizes and even empathizes with his situation. The Year of Our Waris a dark and wonderful debut sure to be a hit with fans of Jeffrey Ford, Mervyn Peake and China MiÅ½ville.
Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.