When her best friend, a talking sea monster, disappears, Lilly must embark on a sequence of self-sacrificing quests to release him, starting with the removal of her reproductive organs.
Wheeler’s bizarre and archly phrased debut is set in an unhappy land where the ruling class is miserable and the magic often visceral. Lilly Rosa is the child of a nouveau riche couple whose marriage is turning sour, leaving their solitary daughter in even greater need of companionship. She finds it in Octavius, a baby kraken/octopus which grows over time into a sizeable monster. Octavius has promised Lilly that he will eat no humans, a commitment that leads to his capture. Lilly, now 18, leaves her miserable home to find and release him, visiting first a troll whose help comes at a high price: the removal of Lilly’s womb, rendering her androgynous. Lilly—now Lyle—does find Octavius, but the key to his freedom is a magic coat, and the key to that is the rescue of an undead tailor, and the key to that is the recovery of a witch’s skin. Performing almost as many labors as Hercules, Lilly/Lyle eventually emerges befriended, stronger, maybe finally connected.
A weird, operatic coming-of-age fantasy streaked with sexuality, pain and heroism; perhaps the awkward arrival of a new voice.