Forsake the world that hates you. Embrace its monster.
Tresor Institute accepts only the worthy, and Ada Călinescu is anything but. Intractable, mannish, a child of convicted terrorists, she can at best hope to be overlooked. Yet somehow the Institute accepts her application for transfer. Her ticket to the polar town of Heilung, home of the Institute, arrives free of charge.
Her only chance to forge a brighter future.
Except Heilung welcomes Ada with news of a brutal murder. Militiamen stalk the town, keen to fill their arrest quotas—and Ada knows she could make an easy scapegoat. At every turn the bloody conspiracy follows her, from the halls of Tresor to the arms of a stranger she yearns to make hers. What starts as a dalliance risks putting Ada at odds with the Bureau itself.
And then expulsion will be the least of her concerns.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I didn’t know what I was getting into when I agreed to read this book, but I don’t regret the decision one bit. This is easily one of my top five reads of the year.
The world described is stark and unforgiving. The Authority, aptly named, attempts to control every aspect of its citizens’ lives; how they dress, the news media, social interactions, and basic necessities like heat and power. Anyone deemed problematic is summarily removed. Some are rumored to be relocated, others disappear, seemingly without a trace. And the Militiamen tasked to ensure citizens comply with the law are harsh and often brutal during their interrogations.
At the core of the story is spellcraft, the force used to power the Authority’s buildings, their weapons, and more. Spellcraft is based on combinations of different glyphs; specific types and combinations result in certain effects. The main character, Ada, is a student of the Institute, where she studies spellcraft—before she’s caught up in the conspiracy the synopsis describes.
Beyond the Institute, Ada is also striving to find herself—in defiance of the Authority’s laws regarding gender norms. When she meets Nikola, a kindred spirit in many ways, she’s instantly intrigued. Nikola is enigmatic and evasive, a mystery Ada is determined to unravel.
Then there’s the conspiracy itself. I don’t want to give any of the plot away, but I’ll say this: I could not have predicted how this story unfolded if I’d tried. It was done really well, giving just enough away to make me wonder without revealing the answers until the very end.
And the writing style of this book was nothing short of captivating. It’s written in beautifully haunting, literary prose that by itself made me want to read more. That the story was so fascinating only made it that much better.
Imago: A Dystopian Gothic will release on January 30, 2024.