Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Under the Pendulum Sun

Catherine Helstone's brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon - but the Queen of the Fae and her insane...

Title:Under the Pendulum Sun
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Under the Pendulum Sun Reviews

  • imyril

    I've taken my time reading this because I've been sick and because the festive season can be more distracting than enabling. But I don't think this has done the book any harm - it's a bit like reading a snow globe, a magical, distracting, half-seen whirl of ideas and promises as its protagonist ventures into Faerie to find her brother the missionary and save the souls of the Fae. Needless to say, what she finds is not what she expects, but the book does wonders in giving you glimpses of the nigh

    I've taken my time reading this because I've been sick and because the festive season can be more distracting than enabling. But I don't think this has done the book any harm - it's a bit like reading a snow globe, a magical, distracting, half-seen whirl of ideas and promises as its protagonist ventures into Faerie to find her brother the missionary and save the souls of the Fae. Needless to say, what she finds is not what she expects, but the book does wonders in giving you glimpses of the nightmare in a Faerie that is wrapped up in Gothic horror (no Victorian flower children here, it's all fangs and scales and blood and cruelty) and showing you the perseverance of love and hope.

    It's also one of those books that I enjoyed the journey well enough without being completely sucked in until the final act, when I finally grasped what was in the snow globe (yes I'm sticking to my metaphor; no, there's not actually any snow globes in the book) and was utterly won over by the dark elegance and ambition of the piece. Bravo. I can't believe this is a

    .

    Well worth a read, but it definitely won't be for everyone - it's slow, atmospheric, often ambiguous, religious, profane, and takes great joy in broken edges.

    I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

    Full review to follow.

  • Hiba Sajid

    Ummm I'm not if I want to run around the streets with this book in my hand screaming 'UNDERRATED' and thrusting this book in hands of any willing person or buy every other copy of this novel which is ever printed and then steal

    's mind and then run away to a forest. Because

    this book is very very very underrated but it's not for everyone.

    Under the Pendulum

    Ummm I'm not if I want to run around the streets with this book in my hand screaming 'UNDERRATED' and thrusting this book in hands of any willing person or buy every other copy of this novel which is ever printed and then steal

    's mind and then run away to a forest. Because

    this book is very very very underrated but it's not for everyone.

    Under the Pendulum Sun is a dark, gruesome and eerie historical fantasy set up in Victorian Era. The author created a faeland known as Arcadia but kept us truly immersed in the mindset of victorian missionary. Some may find the thoughts of these missionaries appalling and some devoutees may agree with the missionaries' thoughts and perceptions. but they are not represented anything like that. Theological discussions between faes and missionaries is the main part of this book. For someone to truly enjoy this book, one had to keep aside their own views on Christian theology, whether negative or positive, and truly submerge themselves into the mind of Catherine Helstone.

    Catherine Helstone's brother is a missionary who had gone to the land of fae, Arcadia. After recieving no news of his, Catherine decided to venture into this perilious land herself where only those who can truly get lost can go. Once she reaches Arcadia, she's met with Mrs Davenport who is changelling and is host of Laon, Catherine's brother, appointed by the ever cunning The Pale Queen. Miss Davenport take Catherine to Gethsemane, a strange and eerie castle in which her brother is residing. Upon reaching this strange place, she discovers her brother is not here and no one allows her to leave. So now Catherine is left to herself in an alien world to look into the mysterious castle with its many secret. Each day she discovers that Arcadia, with its pendulum sun and fish moon, is even stranger then anyone could ever imagine. As she discovers the diary of Reverand Roche, the former missionary toArcadia who died due to reasons unknown, Cathy realizes that truth is something that will truly break her apart.

    The world woven here by author is truly a wonderful one. Each and every detail of the castle, of faes, of these strange animals and flowers everything was so vividly imagined. Arcadia has a pendulum sun that moves to one part of the land and then to another to complete one year cycle. The moon of this land is a giant fush that floats in the cloud.

    These are only two of many wonderful and strange things that Jeannette Ng introduced to us in this book. I wish I could explain each and every little detail of this world to you but I don't want to quote the whole book. But if you take a look on my reading updates, I've mentioned few of my favourite descriptions from this book. I hope they are enough to make anyone reading them pick this book up.

    Under the Pendulum Sun, despise having rich world building, is not the fantasy of war and swords. It is rather a

    The whole story is concentrated in the castle of Gethsemane where our main character and her brother try to unfold the secrets and origin of Fae and Arcadia, about God and about soul. Sins of various sort is the main part of this book. It is the story of many twists and turns and the end result is satisfyingly

    . Yes, mundane. But it was good kind of mundane and once you've read the whole book and then sit down for ten minutes thinking about the book, you would realize how perfect the conclusion was.

    I've said it before, this book is creepy and explores various sort of sins explored so there is one thing I should give heads-up for and that is:

    It's cruel, it's creepy, it's disturbing and it's very very interesting. Kind of the book you want to read again and again to truly appreciate its creepiness.

    I have one tiny miny complain with the author. In her acknowledgements she said her next story would be slightly less creepy and I just want to say nooooo. Please Jeannette Ng, please don't write any less creepy stories. Write more creepy and haunting stories. More. Please.

  • K.J. Charles

    In which a pair of Victorian missionary siblings set out to convert the Fae to Christianity. This is a genius idea, colliding Victorian evangelical-colonial smugness with a world too strange and powerful for them to comprehend.

    It's an odd book in some ways. The pacing is slow in the first half, as the location and characters are pretty static, and there's a lot of theology, in which it's very true to the earnest Victorian novels it riffs on. There's a great sense of creeping menace though, and

    In which a pair of Victorian missionary siblings set out to convert the Fae to Christianity. This is a genius idea, colliding Victorian evangelical-colonial smugness with a world too strange and powerful for them to comprehend.

    It's an odd book in some ways. The pacing is slow in the first half, as the location and characters are pretty static, and there's a lot of theology, in which it's very true to the earnest Victorian novels it riffs on. There's a great sense of creeping menace though, and as events accelerate we're really drawn in, both to the extraordinary and vivid world of the Fae, and to the British MCs' secret flaws and sins. A haunting read, and one that doesn't at all play out as you expect, which precisely suits the theme of the book. How satisfying.

  • A.M. Steiner

    This gothic tale is stylishly told; imaginative and full of wondrous imagery. In rich prose, it details the adventures of a young lady who enters the land of the fae in search of her brother, a missionary who has gone missing. The premise is great, and the language is lovely, but unfortunately, after a strong first three chapters, the story turns slight and painfully slow. It's also curiously devoid of any sense of conflict. The book seems to assume that in-depth theological conversations and an

    This gothic tale is stylishly told; imaginative and full of wondrous imagery. In rich prose, it details the adventures of a young lady who enters the land of the fae in search of her brother, a missionary who has gone missing. The premise is great, and the language is lovely, but unfortunately, after a strong first three chapters, the story turns slight and painfully slow. It's also curiously devoid of any sense of conflict. The book seems to assume that in-depth theological conversations and an evocative 19th century fae setting will be enough to maintain interest for the average reader. I'm not convinced. Despite having studied both Christian thought and British magic as part of my history degree, I found the unrelenting focus on those elements of the story to be too esoteric and academic to be enjoyable. It might have got away with it if the characters were more interesting, but I found them, and in particular the protagonist, to be dull.

    I suspect that this young author will go on to do great things, she's certainly capable of them, but I suspect that many people will find this one to be a bit of a challenge.

    Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.

  • Hannah

    I am conflicted. And as is customary in such cases here are my thoughts, first in listform and then more elaborated.

    Pro:

    Wonderfully atmospheric

    Convincingly gothic

    Interesting world building

    Con:

    Pacing

    Characters

    That super gross twist (mostly this).

    I found the premise to be absolutely wonderful: Catherine Helstone is on her way to visit her brother Laon - a Reverend and missionary. When she arrives nothing it quite what it seems - the housekeeper is elusive, her brother is gone, and the place she fi

    I am conflicted. And as is customary in such cases here are my thoughts, first in listform and then more elaborated.

    Pro:

    Wonderfully atmospheric

    Convincingly gothic

    Interesting world building

    Con:

    Pacing

    Characters

    That super gross twist (mostly this).

    I found the premise to be absolutely wonderful: Catherine Helstone is on her way to visit her brother Laon - a Reverend and missionary. When she arrives nothing it quite what it seems - the housekeeper is elusive, her brother is gone, and the place she finds herself in is different than she expected. So far it sounds like a number of gothic novels I have read - and the language fit that feeling perfectly. However, her brother is a missionary not in Africa or Asia but in the land of the Fae - Arcadia. The people he wants to safe are not people, but rather the fae.

    I thought this central idea was done exceptionally well - I adored how the story mirrored similar stories but always added its own twist. I loved how truly gothic this book (and especially the first half) felt. The atmosphere is super convincing and the whole structure of the book is just stylistically brilliant.It is also predictable in the best way possible: as in, I figured things out just a bit before the protagonist and all the twists and turns made perfect sense in the wider world created here.

    You can tell how much research went into this book and how much Jeannette Ng knows. This research was wonderfully included in the story itself and made this so much fun to read - for the most part.

    However, there were several things that did not quite work for me. The book is very slow paced and felt thus much longer than its 400 pages. Normally I do not really mind slow-paced books but then the characters need to be convincing. And while I thought Catherine was for the most part a wonderful protagonist, I thought her brother was a bit of a charisma vaccuum. Which is why I thought the book worked much better when he was not on the page.

    Finally, my main problem with this book is a very spoilery one. So, you have been warned: do not keep reading if you do not want to be spoiled.

    _____

    I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Angry Robot in exchange for an honest review

  • Rod Duncan

    Some stories sell themselves in a sentence. I mean, Snakes on a Plane, right? You hear the title and you think, I’ve got to see that. I may hate myself afterwards. I probably will. But I need to know.

    I had the same experience when I heard Marc Gascoigne last year describing a new acquisition by Angry Robot. “Nineteenth Century Christian missionaries travel to Arcadia to convert the Fae.”

    A brilliant idea. Marc said he almost bought it on the strength of the pitch. But would the story live up to

    Some stories sell themselves in a sentence. I mean, Snakes on a Plane, right? You hear the title and you think, I’ve got to see that. I may hate myself afterwards. I probably will. But I need to know.

    I had the same experience when I heard Marc Gascoigne last year describing a new acquisition by Angry Robot. “Nineteenth Century Christian missionaries travel to Arcadia to convert the Fae.”

    A brilliant idea. Marc said he almost bought it on the strength of the pitch. But would the story live up to the promise? I got hold of an advance review copy to find out. Here’s what the publisher says about it:

    Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

    There is a great imagination at work here. Jeannette layers her writing, ratcheting up the oppressive, Gothic atmosphere. Catherine is snared in half truths and lost in a maze of impossible architecture. But never completely. In spite of the constrictions, she finds ways to exert her own volition, her own personality. And because of that we find ourselves entirely on her side.

    One of the things I really like about this story is the way the author balances fairy lore and Biblical beliefs. We may see the missionaries as naive and we will certainly think their colonial views are appalling. But they are not presented as ridiculous. That is a real achievement. Because of it, theological discussions between missionary and fae end up having a genuine dramatic heft.

    Under the Pendulum Sun does live up to its fabulous pitch. A richly woven fantasy from a brilliant imagination. Definitely one for readers interested in fairy lore and Gothic fantasy.

    Full disclosure: I received my copy of the book free. My own novels are put out by the same publisher, Angry Robot.

  • Kelsey

    Video review here:

    is a dark, psychological fantasy in a gothic vein, paying considerable literary homage to authors such as the Brontës. Impressively, Jeannette Ng manages to keep her debut novel grounded in historical reality despite its taking place entirely in the faelands. She accomplishes this by immersing us entirely in the Victorian missionary mindset of her characters,

    Video review here:

    is a dark, psychological fantasy in a gothic vein, paying considerable literary homage to authors such as the Brontës. Impressively, Jeannette Ng manages to keep her debut novel grounded in historical reality despite its taking place entirely in the faelands. She accomplishes this by immersing us entirely in the Victorian missionary mindset of her characters, a subject that she has clearly researched in great detail. To a modern fantasy reader, the idea of converting the fae to Christianity is obvious and absurd folly, but to Catherine Helstone and her brother Laon it is only the natural course of action. Since childhood they have dreamed of seeing distant lands, and for products of their time and place, such adventure is inexorably tied to the salvation of the "heathens." So what more thrilling country could there be to venture to than fairyland? And what nobler place to spread the word of God? And yes, it does indeed go rather poorly for them... but not necessarily in the ways you might expect given that premise.

    In this alternate history, the English have established trade with the fae country known as Arcadia (also referred to at times as Elphane), at whose shores one can only arrive by getting lost. The sun here is a lantern on a pendulum, and the moon a fish that swims through the sky, constant reminders that this place is unlike any other known to humankind. The story begins with Cathy's arrival in Arcadia, anxious for news of her missionary brother and certain that he needs her help. She finds to her dismay that her brother's mission is a remote and near-deserted castle with no access to the local population, that her brother is not there, that no one will tell her where he is, and that she is not allowed to leave. So much for adventure, all Cathy can do is knit and make small talk with her changeling guide Miss Davenport, field theological questions she can't answer from the mission's sole convert, a gnome named Mr. Benjamin, and wonder what happened to cause her brother, once her ally and professed equal in all things, to abandon her to an empty and unfulfilled woman's existence in England. But the castle also holds a mystery that puzzles her. What happened to the previous missionary, Reverend Roche? Is the answer in the papers Cathy discovers, written in a language she cannot decipher, or in Roche's journal, which she has been instructed not to read?

    is a seeming contradiction of a book, set in a rich fantasy land, but with action contained to a single locale, wherein the characters incapable of questioning the existence of either their God or the fae magic that surrounds them. The first portion of the book is incredibly slow-moving, and while the pace picks up somewhat after Laon's arrival, followed by that of the fae queen Mab (known as the Pale Queen) and her court, it never ceases to be dense going. There's an incredible amount to unpack here, and a lot of it relies heavily on complicated theology. (I did a lot of Googling and re-reading of passages, which is part of why it took me a rather long time to finish.) Everything must hinge on the question of Arcadia's place in God's Creation, outside the bounds of the understood natural world as it is. What is the nature of the fae and their presumed souls? How might a human preach to them? And what point is there to parable in a land where everything is already in some way a story? These are just a few of the many questions posed.

    But in addition to being ideologically dense,

    is one of the most genuinely creepy and haunting books I've read in a long time. Mab holds the keys to inner Arcadia and had the power to grant true access to the faelands, but she is playing mind games with her "pet missionary" supplicant and his sister, and frighteningly dark ones at that. Unsurprisingly, sin turns out to be a major theme, as Arcadia contrives to test these mortals' convictions to their breaking points.

    Although it is almost certainly a spoiler, there is some content that I don't feel wholly comfortable omitting from a review, since it becomes a huge part of the story, and I can imagine some readers feeling like they should have been given a heads up.

    I'll admit, I went into this book sort of expecting a more pointed modern critique of religious ideology and colonialism, but this isn't a particularly "pointed" book; it's a book that makes you do your own thinking, and having seen the whole story play out, I'm satisfied with what it accomplishes. At times,

    scratched the itch for "literary" fantasy (for lack of a better term) that I've been harboring since finishing

    . Though Ng's tone is more brooding and less witty than Clarke's, both books share a rich sense of lived-in alternate history and acute understanding of fae folklore.

    I still have some questions about things that happened in this book that I've been turning over in my head since I finished it, and I know that there are some arguments that I didn't quite follow. There are a surprising number of twists, reveals, and reversals, given that it's a nearly action-less and essentially idea-driven book. Regardless, it's dark and moody, and was a good reading choice for the month of October.

  • kari

    Eerie, frightening, and cleverly written. Starts with a slow narrative of a Victorian novel to surprise and dazzle with plot twists. I've been yelling about the book on Twitter and telling my friends to read it - I want to discuss it all, the hints and references, the disturbing imagery and emotional impact, and just collectively squee about HOW GOOD it is.

  • Lata

    Beautifully written story of a pair of missionaries to Arcadia, with a (misguided, smug, arrogant) desire to convert the fae to Christianity. Reverend Laon Helstone has been in Arcadia for months, and his sister Catherine arrives in the land because she hasn't heard from him for a long time.

    She's met by a changeling, Ariel Davenport, and taken to the home/castle where Loan has been staying. Catherine arrives and is then kept practically captive there, waiting for Laon. Catherine occupies herself

    Beautifully written story of a pair of missionaries to Arcadia, with a (misguided, smug, arrogant) desire to convert the fae to Christianity. Reverend Laon Helstone has been in Arcadia for months, and his sister Catherine arrives in the land because she hasn't heard from him for a long time.

    She's met by a changeling, Ariel Davenport, and taken to the home/castle where Loan has been staying. Catherine arrives and is then kept practically captive there, waiting for Laon. Catherine occupies herself going through the papers of the mysteriously vanished previous missionary to Arcadia.

    There is not much action in this story; instead there are many theological discussions between Catherine and the groundskeeper, Laon's only convert, and many odd interactions between Catherine and Ariel, the changeling. When Laon returns, followed by Queen Mab and her court, there are more theological discussions. And a mysterious woman in black.

    Beautiful prose fills this book, and a major detail that grossed me out. I found myself constantly putting the book down, though the prose and the heavy, claustrophobic, eerie atmosphere of the book kept bringing me back. And the book's cover is gorgeous.

    5: writing

    5: atmosphere and textures in the story

    2: my lack of interest in the theological aspects of the story

    4: discussions between Catherine and Mr. Benjamin

    4: Catherine, Ariel and Mr. Benjamin

    1: Laon. Boring!

    2: detail that grossed me out

    5: cover art

    Total (avg): 4 stars

  • Acqua

    I mean, it's about Victorian missionaries in fairyland, and everything goes wrong. I want my fae to be creepy and monstrous, and this totally delivered. The cover is just as beautiful and unusual as the content - it's probably one of my favorite covers of all time (this was a cover buy).

    Unfortunately, this was all the book had going for it.

    I mean, the writing was good, but it never surprised me. And

    I mean, it's about Victorian missionaries in fairyland, and everything goes wrong. I want my fae to be creepy and monstrous, and this totally delivered. The cover is just as beautiful and unusual as the content - it's probably one of my favorite covers of all time (this was a cover buy).

    Unfortunately, this was all the book had going for it.

    I mean, the writing was good, but it never surprised me. And

    and the characters are bland.

    The pacing didn't help - it's slow, uneven at times, and it took me almost a week to complete the book.

    I don't think

    is a bad book. I believe it's worth the read just for how weird and intricate it is - it won't be forgettable, at least. It just didn't work that much for me.

    :

    . There is a lot of it. I didn't care that much about that aspect of the story. I liked how the book didn't portray missionaries as good, pure people, and the parts about the exploration of sin were interesting, however it made the

    twist very predictable.

    . I do! The sun of Arcadia is literally a pendulum, the moon is a fish, and there are Sea Whales who swim in the earth and are called Sea Whales because they have the sea inside. The worldbuilding was my favorite part. I also really liked the masquerade scenes, the descriptions were... unsettling.

    that do not deal with the fact that changelings were invented as an explanation for autistic/mentally ill children. (I have some mixed feelings about this, but it's another discussion. It has less to do with this book and more with the trend - I haven't found a changeling narrative that addressed it yet)

    isn't too gross or triggering for you.

    do not bother you. This was probably the main reason the book didn't work for me, but if it isn't a problem for you, you'll probably love this.

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