Thank you to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for the review copy!
Tamsyn Muir has once again produced a work of snarky, fantastic delight. Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower bundles up a set of traditional fairy-tale tropes, lights them on fire, and cheerfully warms its hands over the blaze. When the embers burn down, you are left with something darkly comedic, cleverly imagined, and utterly unique.
Floralinda herself is a princess who has, as princess often are, been trapped at the top of a very tall tower by a very enterprising witch. Each level of the tower is filled horrible monster, and the entrance is guarded by a fearsome dragon. When a plethora of useless princes prove unsuited to the task of rescuing her (and become dragon chow in the process), Floralinda takes matters into her own hands. She is joined by a bottom-of-the garden fairy slash amateur chemist named Cobweb, and together the two of them cook up all kinds of nasty schemes.
I could talk for ages about how Muir is a modern genius of innovative story-telling, but I’ll limit myself to marveling in how clever the narrative structure of this novella is. Each chapter details Floralinda’s escapes on different levels of the tower, a top to bottom journey both in the physical and metaphorical sense, as Floralinda reinvents herself to become her own rescuer along the way. Truly a prime example of function following form, but also a brilliant character study of a sheltered young girl learning to take control of her life and her situation.
Muir’s writing style remains absolutely unmatched, leaving me cackling out loud a times with her dexterous use of wit and clever turns of phrase. She has the ability to turn even the most mundane of sentences into something humorous, and she contrasts this skill with the startlingly dark and gory aspects of the story to create a compelling, darkly humous fantasy. I adored this novella, and can’t wait to be thrilled and enchanted by whatever Muir tackles next.