Happy Wednesday, everyone! I am back from my working-while-traveling-trip with my family and I promptly slept for 12 hours upon arriving back home. It’s been quite emotional because tomorrow is my 25th birthday and it sucks that a) they’re gone and b) I have work…but oh well. Now that I have recovered and gotten my life (slightly) in order, I’m back with a review! This one is of an ARC I received a while back, and since it was pitched as a Hamlet retelling, obviously I had to request it. Let’s get into it.
In this lush, magical, queer, and feminist take on Hamlet in modern-day New York City, a neuro-atypical physicist, along with his best friend Horatio and artist ex-fiancé Lia, are caught up in the otherworldly events surrounding the death of his father.
Meet Ben Dane: brilliant, devastating, devoted, honest to a fault (truly, a fault). His Broadway theatre baron father is dead—but by purpose or accident? The question rips him apart.
Unable to face alone his mother’s ghastly remarriage to his uncle, Ben turns to his dearest friend, Horatio Patel, whom he hasn’t seen since their relationship changed forever from platonic to something…other. Loyal to a fault (truly, a fault), Horatio is on the first flight to NYC when he finds himself next to a sly tailor who portends inevitable disaster. And who seems ominously like an architect of mayhem himself.
Meanwhile, Ben’s ex-fiancé Lia, sundered her from her loved ones thanks to her addiction recovery and torn from her art, has been drawn into the fold of three florists from New Orleans—seemingly ageless sisters who teach her the language of flowers, and whose magical bouquets hold both curses and cures. For a price.
On one explosive night these kinetic forces will collide, and the only possible outcome is death. But in the masterful hands of Lyndsay Faye, the story we all know has abundant surprises in store. Impish, captivating, and achingly romantic, this is Hamlet as you’ve never seen it before.
Overall rating: 3/5
Genre: Magical realism
Read if you loved: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong, The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Content warnings: Suicide, mental health issues, addiction
The synopsis for The King of Infinite Space drew me in – a queer retelling of Hamlet with a neuroatypical protagonist? Sign me right up. I’m a huge fan of retellings, especially when approached from a perspective that is uncommon or underrepresented in literature. I know firsthand what it’s like to read iconic stories and see no one like you in them, so I’m here for the retelling/interpretation trend. It’s so very important *gets off soapbox*. Faye delivers on many of the promises that the premise offers, but there were definite areas in which I struggled. All in all, it’s a beautiful story with a lot to love, but could have benefited from greater focus and structure.
Faye’s writing in this novel is impressive. Her craftsmanship of character perspectives (this book contain three POVs, another plus point), imagery, and interpretation of Hamlet is very captivating. There were several poignant moments in which I actually gasped, and for a retelling, this story contains some truly heart-wrenching moments that manage to surprise despite an assumption of knowing “what happens”. I was highly intrigued during the first chapter – it opens with a dream sequence which immediately introduces our key characters in addition to the vague magic that is present throughout the text. The magic is never really defined, but I’m okay with that in cases like this – the mystery helps contribute to as well as complement the existing tension from the plot. Lia’s chapters were my favorite, especially due to the three sisters (read: witches) who you meet early on. They brought some much-needed spice to the story and I found myself most looking forward to their scenes.
Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed many parts of the book, I found myself to be quite bored for the first half. It is a very dialogue-reliant novel when it comes to Ben and Horatio’s POVs, and I found their interactions to get repetitive. I did appreciate the depiction of Ben’s inner monologue as a reflection of his ADHD however since I am fairly neurotypical, I can’t comment on how well that worked. Besides that, however, nothing was actually happening in their chapters, and they sometimes went on for far too long. And look, this is based on a play so the heavy conversation is not surprising, but I found myself disconnecting until Lia’s POV. Additionally, there were a few plot lines that felt completely unnecessary/as though they were afterthoughts injected for the sake of heightened suspense. The entire janitor storyline, for instance, didn’t really serve a purpose in my opinion, and I could have done without it. Sadly, these issues overwhelmed my experience, resulting in the lower rating that I’ve given the book.
I would nonetheless recommend The King of Infinite Space as I’m sure the storytelling may be more appealing to someone else. It didn’t quite work for me yet I still found myself loving parts of the book. I’m very glad I read it since this wouldn’t be one I would have picked up if I hadn’t seen it on NetGalley, so thank you to the publisher and author for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The King of Infinite Space is out on August 10th!