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

  • 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.

    It's cruel, it's creepy 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.

  • Rachel Noel

    *Free copy in exchange for an honest review.

    Let me start out by saying: Holy wah. Holy wah! Holy WAH! This book was an amazing read! I can't remember the last time I was tempted to take a day off work just to finish a book! There were so many things to think about and work through! I generally highlight parts of a book that make me think, or to look up later, or that might be clues for the overall story. Usually I highlight just a few things overall. I swear I highlighted almost half the book ju

    *Free copy in exchange for an honest review.

    Let me start out by saying: Holy wah. Holy wah! Holy WAH! This book was an amazing read! I can't remember the last time I was tempted to take a day off work just to finish a book! There were so many things to think about and work through! I generally highlight parts of a book that make me think, or to look up later, or that might be clues for the overall story. Usually I highlight just a few things overall. I swear I highlighted almost half the book just because there was so much that struck me!

    You can tell Jeannette Ng has done the research on this. Not just because she has her Master's in Medieval and Renaissance studies (by the way this book takes place in 1800's) but also because of her mastery of the language. She uses the terminology these characters would have used in their time, in their place. My favorite part was that the Fae tell how long it takes to get somewhere, not with time or distance, but stories. For example, the Pale Queen commented to the Salamander that it had been too long since they'd last seen each other.

    The Salamander bowed deep, her wet-seeming scales glistening. "It has been as long as it takes to tell a tale, neither long nor short."

    And this really gives you an insight into the Fae mindset. If one doesn't measure time by seconds and minutes or distance in feet or meters, it really affects your interpretation of the world around you.

    The best part, for me, is that everything ended up making perfect sense. When I got to the end of the book and saw the full scope of this story my jaw dropped in awe. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say that the Mastermind of it all has much more power, influence and insight than I had EVER thought to give them credit for! I was floored by how little I had comprehended! Don't get me wrong, the story's only told from Catherine's perspective, but still! I ended up falling into the same thought trap that she did and I almost never do that! I was so caught up in this story that I was unable to predict, unable to see, except as hindsight. IT WAS AWESOME!

    I'll admit, the dark, gothic fantasy genre isn't for everyone. If you are interested in true fairy tales, like the original dark Brother's Grimm stuff, you'll probably like this. There's a lot of theology mixed with mythology that does such a wonderful job of tickling one's curiosity.

    I am so in love with this book that I'm pre-ordering it (click the picture above to go to the book's page). I happily give this book 5 hoots and look forward to more books from Jeannette Ng!

  • 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.

  • Helen

    Catherine Helstone's brother Laon is a missionary who has been sent to the fairy land of Arcadia in an attempt to convert the fae. When he stops replying to her letters she Catherine is so worried about him that she travels to Arcadia in an attempt to find him.

    When she arrives her brother is not there at Gethsemane, the manor house Queen Mab of

    Catherine Helstone's brother Laon is a missionary who has been sent to the fairy land of Arcadia in an attempt to convert the fae. When he stops replying to her letters she Catherine is so worried about him that she travels to Arcadia in an attempt to find him.

    When she arrives her brother is not there at Gethsemane, the manor house Queen Mab of the fae provided for him to stay in. Her brother's staff are vague about his location but assure Catherine that he will return soon. As she waits for him, she hears rumours about the death of the previous missionary, Reverend Roche, but no one will straight out tell her what happened to him. When Catherine finds the dead Roche's journals full of strange rambling entries and a book written in a language she does not recognise she decides that reading and deciphering them will provide the key to understanding the strange place that she has found herself.

    The characters are missionaries, so obviously are going to be religious. I read that the author has studied theology, and it shows. Religion plays a massive part in this story, with discussions around theology making up a lot of the book. Catherine spends a lot of time praying and thinking about God, and pondering whether the fae have souls or not.

    There are so many layers to this story. The main story is easy enough to follow but there's a lot of hidden meanings that as the reader you need to decipher to fully understand what is going on. If you enjoy working out the meaning behind what the author is showing us for yourself, you will love this book! There is a lot to think about or things that if you research a bit will make a lot more sense. Even the name of the manor house Catherine and Laon are staying in has meaning.

    Honestly, I struggle with hints and subtle suggestion, I prefer things that are spelt out for me. I like knowing what the author intended without having to make guesses myself. So it took me a while to get into this. It was very slow to start with, and I had no idea where it was going, it took me a while to work out the point of the book, Cathrine spends most of her time reminiscing about her childhood and how wonderful her brother is. But I slowly got caught up in the story telling, and the second half is much better paced.

    Queen Mab turns up and throws a (very nasty) winter ball full of clockwork automaton and things start to get more interesting. Then Catherine starts to find out what happened to the Reverend Roche, and why no one will talk about how he died.

    I loved the way the fae are cruel and unkind, playing games with the few humans that are allowed into Arcadia. This is fae as they are meant to be! Queen Mab is very, very scary and I can't understand why Catherine and her brother want to go further into the interior of Arcadia. I'd be running for my life after that Winter Ball.

    It's very twisty and turny, just when I thought I understood what was going on the story changes again. Even though most of the action takes place in Gethsemane, it's still full of secrets and intrigue and strange and unusual creatures and sights.

    Very dark, very gothic, Under the Pendulum Sun is not an easy read. But the writing and the world building are an absolute treat and the story is very original.

    I'm wavering between 3 and 4 stars, but the narrator is just too religious and pious for my liking. After a while, she started to grate on me, so I'm going with 3 stars.

  • 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.

  • Tanya

    I got approved by Edelweiss but denied by Netgally for this arc.....

    Heh Heh...

  • 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.

  • Devann

    I ALMOST bumped this up to 4 stars because it is such a unique and interesting book but ultimately decided to stick with 3. The world building is incredible and there are so many little details on what makes the world of faerie so uncanny even when the characters are dealing with something that should be familiar. I also love the idea of Christian missionaries trying to interact with the world of faerie and it's n

    I ALMOST bumped this up to 4 stars because it is such a unique and interesting book but ultimately decided to stick with 3. The world building is incredible and there are so many little details on what makes the world of faerie so uncanny even when the characters are dealing with something that should be familiar. I also love the idea of Christian missionaries trying to interact with the world of faerie and it's not something that I've ever seen before.

    The majority of this book is built on character development and interaction and while I did find it ultimately satisfying I thought that a lot of the 'twists' were fairly predictable, especially when you factor in the fake historical documents at the beginnings of the chapters [which were a great touch! I love things like that]. Although my lack of surprise might just be because I read so many fantasy books, I have seen a few reviews on here saying that the person was very confused about what was going on so I guess your mileage may vary.

    There are some really great revelations about the faeries at the end which is what ultimately really made the book for me and almost made me bump up my rating. But ultimately once I knew those things I kind of wished the book had spent more time on the actual biblical mythology of it all and less time on the missionaries. I don't know if there's a sequel planned but I for one would LOVE to have more direct knowledge of Mab's background and the founding of faerie. It's a great blending of biblical mythology and faerie lore.

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