Here are a couple of books I’ve recently enjoyed and reviewed for NPR Books:
The Accidental Highwayman, by Ben Tripp.
Kit Bristol, a former circus performer, is the only servant employed by James Rattle, charged with supplying his dissolute gambling addict of a master with food and beer as well as looking after his magnificent horse, Midnight. Kit enjoys his life, and is fervently loyal to his master — even when the latter stumbles home dressed all in black and bleeding from gunshots, revealing himself to be Whistling Jack, a famously wanted highwayman.
Jack dies in spite of Kit’s ministrations, bequeathing to Kit his clothing, dog and horse, and a mysterious mission that will embroil him in the politics of two nations — one of which is Faerie Land. Joining Kit on his adventure are several small fairies, an exiled witch, an acrobat from his circus days, her amnesiac uncle, a shape-shifting fairy princess and an orangutan.
Heap House, by Edward Carey.
The year is 1875, and Clodius Iremonger is a member of a very strange family with a very strange lineage, occupying a borough of London called Forlichingham (or Filching), where they minister to the heaps. The heaps are piles of refuse and salvage that have been accumulating for decades, to the point where they have developed their own climate and a rather mercurial geography. The Iremonger family has evolved alongside these heaps in a symbiotic relationship that, over the course of the book, goes from quaint and whimsical to harrowing and bleak: each Iremonger is given an object at birth that comes to represent them, and from which it is dangerous to be parted.