Summer in Orcus - T. Kingfisher

I started reading Summer in Orcus when it was being posted by the writer as a serial, but fell behind and stopped, so I was pleased to see it get nominated for the YA not-a-Hugo and then turn up in the voter's packet. I wish I could have given it more than 3 stars but it didn't knock my socks off, so 3 it is...

 

For those people who care about labels, Summer in Orcus is a portal fantasy, which is something that used to be much more common when I started reading fantasy than it is now. In this case, matters start when Summer gets an unexpected visit from Baba Yaga after the house with chicken feet takes a liking to her, and gets sent on a quest to find her heart's desire. The world she travels into is Orcus, a place plagued by the destruction of magic, and Summer soon finds herself travelling in the company of others to try and stop this destruction at its source. 

 

In this particular scenario, Summer is travelling with animals who can talk - including one who is the subject of a particularly appalling pun - and any book which includes both a talking weasel and a talking hoopoo (my favourite birds!) is automatically going to get some interest from me. It's a solidly written story but I can't help feeling like it's going through the motions at times though I can't quite put my finger on where.

 

This is another of those YA books that I would have adored as a teenager myself but I was just left feeling sad for Summer - she's had this adventure but her world remains unchanged, a world where she is coping with her mother's unstable mental health, and all she has are memories of a place where things were different. Anyway, it's also a standalone story, though there are teasers at the end about the possibility of a return for Summer to the other side of the portal as an adult, so that I'm sure will be excellent news for anyone looking for something which isn't the first of a multi-part series...