Review: Of Opals and Imposters: or The Ballad of Harriette and John Tarrou by Josiah Bancroft

5/5 Stars

Happiness was the consolation nature offered its imbeciles.

This short story is a bonus for pre-ordering Bancroft’s ‘The Hod King (The Books of Babel #3’ through Orbit‘s website.

Let’s just start this off by saying that everything I have read by Bancroft is absolute aces. He is a fantastic writer and this little nugget was a great appetizer to get me in the mood for The Hod King.

“I’m sure Gaspard will be shocked to hear that his son is charging about town like a wild boar.”
“My apologies, ma’am. In the future, I will try to be a gentler ham,” he said.

If you read Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1), you will recognize Tarrou’s name, and I will leave it at that as to not be spoilery. But this story is a prequel of sorts, giving us the backstory of Tarrou and how he became embroiled with The Baths. From his not so humble upbringing, working for an un-involved, and oft times un-encouraging father, to meeting Harriette and planning their future together, Tarrou’s life takes some major turns to end up in the Tower. But to be honest, everything seemed to be working out just fine until he developed a horrible cough.

He diagnosed Tarrou with “moria,” a manic condition which caused a morbid compulsion to joke and an uncontrollable urge to laugh, especially at inappropriate times.

I will say, it is pretty difficult to expand on a short story without utterly ruining it. I read Of Opals and Imposters in about 15ish minutes and was absolutely enamored throughout. There is a reason Bancroft has exploded since Sir Lawrence’s SPFBO in 2016, earned a publishing contract with Orbit, and is quickly becoming a household name: on top of being a wonderful person, he is an absolute master story-teller.

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