ARC REVIEW: HIGH TIMES IN THE LOW PARLIAMENT BY KELLY ROBSON

STAR RATING: 3 stars
PAGE LENGTH: 160 pages
CW: Drug use, blood
IF YOU LIKED THIS, TRY: Honestly, I am baffled to come up with anything similar to this — maybe any of T. Kingfisher’s books set in the World of the White Rat?

Thank you to Netgalley and Tordotcom for providing an ARC copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

Kelly Robson is back with fairies, scribes, and many many kisses in High Times in the Low Parliament.

Lana Baker is Aldgate’s finest scribe, with a sharp pen and an even sharper wit. Gregarious, charming, and ever so eager to please, she agrees to deliver a message for another lovely scribe in exchange for kisses and ends up getting sent to Low Parliament by a temperamental fairy as a result.

As Lana transcribes the endless circular arguments of Parliament, the debates grow tenser and more desperate. Due to long-standing tradition, a hung vote will cause Parliament to flood and a return to endless war. Lana must rely on an unlikely pair of comrades—Bugbite, the curmudgeonly fairy, and Eloquentia, the bewitching human deputy—to save humanity (and maybe even woo one or two lucky ladies), come hell or high water. 

High Times in the Low Parliament is an incredibly quick read. It’s not even 200 pages, so you’ll plow through this one if you’re anything like me. So…did I like it? Yes, and no. It’s kind of middling, for me. High Times in the Low Parliament is not a book that takes itself seriously. The main character, Lara, peddles and does drugs for most of the story, describing the hallucinogenic effects while dealing with what’s going on plotwise. She’s also frequently flirting with whoever is nearest to her. — Lara does nothing seriously the entire book. There’s some rather funny moments, however — I caught myself laughing out loud a few times while I read.

But despite laughing, I think my struggle with this book is that I don’t really understand what the point was. It’s not really a feel-good story, it’s not a love story, it’s not a real “fantasy” — by which I mean there’s no quest, no big baddie. And no, stories don’t need a point to be worth telling, but at the end of this one I was just left a little aimless.

The world building done by Robson in High Times in the Low Parliament is fascinating. There are no men in the entire world presented in this novella. Children are conceived when a woman asks for blessing from the natal fairy. Women do literally everything else. I thought this was a unique aspect of world-building, but I’m not sure why this choice was made. Did men ever exist? I did wonder while I read, but answers are not forth coming in the text.

I think High Times in the Low Parliament was not really for me. I just didn’t get it.

HIGH TIMES IN THE LOW PARLIMANT comes out AUGUST 9, 2022.

Add to your Goodreads, or preorder at at the following links:

GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG | AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

ARC REVIEW: WE ALL FALL DOWN BY ROSE SZABO

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan publishing for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS

In River City, where magic used to thrive and is now fading, the witches who once ruled the city along with their powerful King have become all but obsolete. The city’s crumbling government is now controlled primarily by the new university and teaching hospital, which has grown to take over half of the city.

Moving between the decaying Old City and the ruthless New, four young queer people struggle with the daily hazards of life―work, school, dodging ruthless cops and unscrupulous scientists―not realizing that they have been selected to play in an age-old drama that revives the flow of magic through their world. When a mysterious death rocks their fragile peace, the four are brought into each other’s orbits as they uncover a deeper magical conspiracy.

Devastating, gorgeous, and utterly unique, We All Fall Down examines the complex network of pain created by power differentials, even between people who love each other―and how it is possible to be queer and turn out just fine. 

I devoured this book. It one of the most unique books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s so well done. We All Fall Down is about four characters who live on an island called River City. The island is basically a sovereign nation — US laws do not apply. And yes, the book takes place in current day. However, most technology does not work very well on the island. There’s no connection to outside internet, cellphones don’t work well, etc. It’s all explained by saying the island’s bedrock messes with newer and more complicated technology.

At the beginning of a novel, there is a flashback scene that sets up the entire story. The previous King dies, and his wife, the Maiden, dies giving birth to their children. This is our start.

Lemme pause here and say that if you don’t like stories where fate is a thing, you probably won’t like this one. The whole book is about fate, and how the ‘wheel’ will continue to turn regardless of what people try to do to influence it. Fate says there must be four players: The King, The Hero, The Maiden, and the Monster. We meet everyone by the end of the novel.

David, is a huge black man who works at the University as a physicist. He’s studying magic without really realizing that’s what he’s doing. Jesse has a unique power — they can physically turn from a male to female body and back again at will. They are a bright little sunshiney cinnamon roll, and I love them. Jack is a buff, tough woman who works for the local crime lord. She’s got a hard exterior, but is a little squishy underneath. Turing is…I don’t want to spoil it, but she’s different. She’s had a very rough life, and is sheltered because of it. Each of the characters has their own definite story line, and they’re all very well rounded. I do wish we got a little more information on Jack, but perhaps that’s coming in the next book.

There is not a single straight person in this book. It’s fantastic. The writing is mysterious and shadowing feeling without being frustratingly vague. I cannot wait to read the next one, whenever it comes out. I am dying to get some more answers regarding fate in this world!

WE ALL FALL DOWN WILL BE RELEASED JUNE 7, 2022.

Preorder at your local indie bookstore, or at the following links:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE