Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente

9.1/10
This poignant poetic work is a feast for the mind.
Palimpsest book cover

Sei, November,  Ludov, and Oleg -- four people unknown to each other but united by grief and their obsession with the city of Palimpsest. Located beyond the human realm, Palimpsest is accessible only by those who sleep after generating the energy which comes from sex. Once anyone arrives in the city, they indulge in sense pleasures and are able to obtain their innermost desires -- two things which ensure that Palimpsest visitors return.

When they awake from their surreal adventure and return to reality, Palimpsest visitors' only evidence that what they've experienced is not just a dream, is the new tattoos which mark their bodies. And with each return visit, the tattoos grow, eventually depicting a map of each neighborhood in the city.

Like its namesake Palimpsest  (diverse layers), the city is indeed complex with many hidden aspects beneath its surreal landscape. Magical images reminiscent of the "Alice in Wonderland" fantasy create a surreal reading experience. It's as if someone engineered the city -- inhibited by mechanical bugs and conjoined human animal-beings -- based on a blueprint of adult hopes and wishes. If you want to be seduced by an beautiful and sensuous fantasy world, look no farther than Palimpsest.

Like other Cathryn Valente books (Orphan's Tales, In the Garden of Coin and Spice), this poignant poetic work is a feast for the mind. Palimpsest is the gift of a fairy tale wrapped in an allegory and tied with a mystical ribbon. A gift that readers can enjoy again and again.

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