I read this book about a month ago, but with multiple debilitating illnesses, I’ve been unable to actually review it until now. This will probably end up a fairly short review since I actually don’t have too much to say about this book.
…And that probably sums up everything you need to know about it.
The Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler (Kindle version) — published by my faves, Apex Publishing — is a prequel to her Jackson’s Unreal Circus series. Here, we follow the aforementioned Jackson on his journey from the foundling hospital he grew up in to San Francisco and the strange fate he finds there.
On the whole, the book is enjoyable weirdness. Beneath Jackson’s apparently human form lay scaled tentacles; the woman who takes him in, Cressida, has a house full of shadows, with guard lions that judge the worth of whoever enters and eats those who are unworthy; Mae, the mysterious lion tame with a startling secret; the Fates, who determine birth, life, and death.
The TL;DR before the cut: I expected Lovecraft and got Twilight with prettier prose.
There is nothing inherently wrong about the type of eerie this book dwells in.
…BUT (and spoilers):
It really doesn’t land.
At its core, it’s still just a boy-meets-“mysterious” girl. Which isn’t necessarily bad, obviously, but I went into this expecting something new, and this is very… not. She’s mysterious and comes from the other house that Jackson’s not supposed to be around, but he’s in love, oh no~
I mean, it’s mostly me, but I’m just so tired of this same story happening in every. single. book.
Spoiler One: Queerphobia
(that wasn’t really a spoiler above)
The odd queerphobia in the book is uncomfortable af. The only queer characters seen are ones in “the show”, a strange sort of Follies-meets-snuff-meets-sex work. Nobody else in this book even hints to being queer, something that really rankles when one of the few queer characters who we know of gets literally mauled by a lion, and only then to fuel a “you needed to know this” plot point. The character doesn’t even get a name.
Like, you’re fucking me.
Spoiler Two: The Fates
Now, I love me some Three Fates plots. I find their particular mythology and modern use fascinating. Here, they just fell flat. While supposed to be intrinsic to the plot, they felt shoehorned in, dropped in to be that one deus ex machina that pushes Jackson to Do His Duty and be the hero. We get very little about the Fate of Birth (Sister Jerome) outside of her persona of Sister Jerome. We get even less about the Fate of Death (who manages to get a name, though not much else). Mae is the Fate of Life (which imo), but there’s no… build up to it. There’s no resolution to it, either. The first time we see Life and Death is when they’re literally Burying Their Gays. Then they do some sort of weird “this is the way” trip on Jackson, and that’s pretty much the last Fate-things until they show up at the end.
TL;DR after cut: Man, I wish I could’ve liked this more. If you want a “fate of life with love” story, with tentacles and, yes, a kraken, go for it. Just don’t expect it to be life-changing.
(Links are affiliate to Amazon, so if you do want a copy, I would be v happy. Most reviews have been glowing so, well, YMMV. And I made it through without swearing, A+)