Book Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This book wasn’t one that I was expecting to love. In fact, I’ve never heard of the author, Susanna Clarke, nor was I aware of this novel’s existence. I encountered it because it was my first choice for Book of the Month (BOTM). For those that don’t know, BOTM is a subscription-based service where you pay about $15 per month and you choose one book out of five titles. From the five presented to me, I chose the fantasy novel with a statue of a satyr on the cover. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but that’s exactly what I did and boy I did I not regret it.

Piranesi is a fantasy/mystery written by Susanna Clarke.

Released on Sept. 15, Piranesi takes place in an infinite plane called the House. The corridors are endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, and each room is different from the next. In the House there are three floors. The lower floor is where waters rage and aquatic creatures live. The top floor is where the clouds live and the floor between is everything in between. The main character is a 35-year man known as Piranesi who lives to explore the House and tend to the dead. In the House there are only 15 known humans, 13 of which are simply skeletons. The two living are Piranesi himself and a man called The Other. As the narrative drives forward, The Other informs Piranesi that a dangerous 16th human will be entering. The more Piranesi explores, the more evidence emerges, and a terrible truth begins to unravel.

As with all of my reviews, I list what I liked, what I didn’t, and my recommendation. So, without further ado, here is what I liked about Piranesi:

The first thing that I liked about this book was the interesting world known simply as the house. Piranesi has spent his entire life exploring the House and still hasn’t found the limits of his world. As he explores, he keeps a running journal of his findings, the schedule of the tides in the lower floor, and his encounters with The Other. The House is so both different and familiar, implementing real world and fantasy elements and objects.

Piranesi is such an intriguing yet unreliable narrator. The narrative style is in the form of entries of his journals. For example, his first journal entry includes a list of all the people who have ever lived and what is known of them. Thirteen of those entries are skeletons and how he believes they had spent their lives. Interestingly enough, he even has a journal entry about his journey entries. I say that he’s an unreliable narrator because The Other informs him that his memory isn’t what it used to be. This revelation sparks some of the conflict that sucks the reader in.

The main mystery around the House and why Piranesi and The Other are the only remaining inhabitants is what keeps the reader from putting the book down. As the story progresses the reader starts to see some signs that all is not as it seems to be inside the House. I won’t say anything else to that effect because doing so might spoil it and that would be a shame. What I will say is that it’s a slow boil realization that starts about halfway through the book and by the third act the reader has most certainly figured out what’s happened even if Piranesi hasn’t.

The last thing that I’ll touch on in this portion of the review is that the book is short. Weighing in at 245 pages, it’s short for a fantasy novel. Having said that, I’m glad it was shorter than a Sanderson or a Tolkien read. If it’d been longer, the plot might have felt bloated and therefore rather boring. The plot is concise and sticks with the central narrative. In other words, short and to the point.

I’m not sure I have much to really say against the novel. When you finally realize what’s happening, it’s an amazing realization and the rest of the book is spent on how Piranesi comes to that same conclusion.

For those that enjoy fantasy/mystery novels that are shorter in length, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is a must-read.

Book of the Month isn’t sponsoring this review, but I still feel like I should give them a shoutout because if I hadn’t subscribed to the service I wouldn’t have obtained this amazing novel. Currently, the service is about $15 a month, but using a discount on the page I was able to get Piranesi for only $9.99! If you look on Amazon, you can pick it up for $20.17. That’s an incredible discount. I ordered the book on Sept. 15 and received it about four days later. If you’re wanting to increase your reading, then I’d recommend Book of the Month.

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James Master

A natural born reader, James tackled the works of Stephen King and Michael Crichton when he was in the sixth grade. His influential young mind, now twisted by the science fiction and horror genre, James did what any respectable young man would. He began crafting stories. Instead of playing in recess, James would write stories about dinosaurs and serial killers. He hasn’t stopped writing or reading which is where his path crossed with Burning Willow Press, LLC. Ironically enough, you can find James’s first published work, “The Dark Forest,” in the anthology “Crossroads in the Dark II: Urban Legends” published by Burning Willow Press. His first book, “The Book of Roland” published Feb. 25, 2017, is a 2017 Summer Indie Book Award nominee. It is the first of seven in the Soul Eater Chronicles and it is centered around a katana wielding, gunslinging, pop culture referencing monk named Timothy as he fights the incarnations of the Seven Deadly Sins. His next book, “The Book of Mark”, is scheduled to come out early 2018. James graduated from Indiana University South Bend with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Minor in Film Studies in 2015. By day, James works as a mild-mannered reporter for The Pilot News as well as an editor for the weekly paper The News-Mirror. By night, he works for BWP reading submissions or writing his own works.
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