A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
Ahh, this book was so lovely and it deserves all the praise I’ve been seeing for it around the net. In a year that was completely exhausting, this book a lot of joy to people’s lives and reminded us that love counts for a lot.
This story is set from our main character, Linus’, POV. And what a lovely character. When we first meet him he seems to be telling himself that he’s content with his life. It’s very routine and somewhat boring and his office environment reminds me a bit of the beginning of Joe VS the Volcano (sorry for the old film reference but I’m old so…). It’s not a pleasant place to work and despite having worked there seventeen years he’s never advanced and has to put up with both his boss and his coworker’s derision. But he does this because, he tells himself, he believes in what he’s doing. At home he has a neighbor who is a busybody and rather annoying and a cat that is, like a lot of cats, mostly indifferent. And yet, he says he’s happy.
I think this speaks to those of us that take routine and stability for happiness. We do a lot to convince ourselves that we’re happy without really knowing what that is because maybe we don’t have much to compare against. Being stuck in a rut is so common that we have a name for it, after all. And that’s where Linus is at when the story begins. It’s not until something happens to disrupt that routine and take him out of his comfort zone that he begins to open up more and discover bits of himself that were long buried. That he actually might want something more out of life other than just settling.
The main message/theme of this book is love. And because of that it is very sweet and sometimes almost too saccharine. But I can’t fault it for that. It never ignores the realities surrounding the children or even the adults that are magical in nature. There are incidents of hate and even some hints at violence. Klune never says that love will solve everything or change everyone’s mind, but that it’s a start and that you can’t make change without at least starting something. This is what Linus brings to the island–change and a new perspective. Because Arthur, the master of the orphanage and more of a father to the children than just a caretaker, is content to live there hidden away and protecting his charges from the greater world. Some part of him knows that’s not realistic, that some day they’ll need to face the world on their own, but he’s not ready to make that step until Linus arrives. I think that those two were a perfect balance for each other. Arthur at times seems like a perfect man but he has his flaws, even if they are hidden in his loving and protective nature.
One other thing that I’ll mention about this book is the humor. I’ve only read two other of Klune’s books before and while they were fairly different in tone and this is yet even more different, there are always threads that run through each of them and the humor is one of them. I feel like it’s hard to write something funny that will make a reader laugh out loud and yet Klune nails that every time. I spent a lot of my time reading this chuckling to myself or having to explain to my husband why I was giggling. This book was feel good in more than one way, and for that, I thank its author.
Honestly, I loved everything about this book. It’s undoubtedly my favorite read of 2020 (and I’ve read quite a few books). I hope that you get the chance to read this and enjoy it too. 5/5 stars.