Koerber (The Eclipse Dancer, 2018, etc.) offers readers an embittered narrator, a dystopic near future, and an intriguing, nuanced treatment of magic, nature, and justice in this urban-fantasy tale.
Bob Fallon is half-human and “half-forest spirit from the wild hare clan,” and he owns one of the last remaining bits of forested land in northern Wisconsin. It would be easy for him to dismiss humankind entirely—and on some days, that’s exactly what he wants to do. His clan’s mantra of “feed, fuck, fight” has governed a lot of his life, and he can’t help but feel a smoldering rage about the destruction of the forests and other injustices in his surroundings. Koerber’s characterization of Bob is perhaps the book’s strongest element; the protagonist’s jaded, acidic attitude will put readers perfectly into a noirish mindset. At the same time, Bob does a great job of providing context, both for the decaying world he inhabits and for his own limited abilities: “since I’m a fairy, why can’t I fix things?” When Arne, one of his few friends, is jailed for failing to pay speeding tickets, Bob starts raising money for his release, but this is easier said than done, as Bob has spent years avoiding townspeople, doing begrudging odd jobs for them, or outright stealing from them—and the state adds Arne’s room and board to the fine every day. Bob works inside and outside the law as he runs afoul of local militia, a congressman with shady ties, and a host of other fairies, spirits, and tricksters. Overall, the story manages to weave together a complex tapestry of themes, from climate change to poverty to what qualifies as morality in a world that’s facing catastrophe. The prose is clear and concise throughout, giving readers a sense of each scene and character through the protagonist’s eyes.
A wrenching, complex novel that any fantasy fan would do well to pick up.