Wednesday 8 February 2023

Love Like a Cephalopod - Cassondra Windwalker

To death and to the dragon born.

Being an executioner for the state is exhausting, but after a lifetime of dispatching the criminal and the inconvenient, fifty-eight-year-old Grenda finds it does have its compensations. Her cat-sized dragon Bjartur and the dragon eggs she tends are all the friends and family she needs. Completely cut off from the outside world, she happily accepts the luxuries owed her status – including a pet octopus named Morrigan – without the faintest twinge of conscience or doubt.

All that changes when she encounters the most unexpected nemesis: a young refugee girl whom Grenda is incapable of executing. Against her will, Grenda finds herself shifting from killer to caretaker, risking her life to defy the state she’s never questioned and help young Allora to freedom. Everything Grenda thinks she knows about her world, her life, and even her own identity cascades out of her control—including the dragon-bond she holds dearer than life itself.

What did I think?

Fantasy is not my usual genre but I was so impressed by Cassondra Windwalker's unforgettable novel Idle Hands that I leapt at the chance to read an early copy of Love Like a Cephalopod and wow, I was not disappointed.  

The writing is exquisite and the characters and scenery are brought to life so vividly that I could easily conjure their images in my mind.  The beautiful purple shades of octopus Morrigan's tank and the glittering green scales of Bjartur the dragon as well as the gooey melting cheese that Grenda loves so much.

I loved Grenda, the cheese-loving older protagonist whose life (if you can call it that) revolved around her work as an executioner for the state.  She works, she eats, she sleeps, she works and doesn't question it until she is unable to execute a young girl which completely tips the scales of Grenda's work/life balance.

As much as I loved Grenda, I also loved her dragon Bjartur who is really an extension of Grenda, as the pair imprinted when Grenda was a young girl.  The care they take over nurturing the dragon eggs in their care is very moving and it actually brought a lump to my throat at the end.

For me to love a book that belongs to a genre I don't normally read it has to be extraordinary and I absolutely loved Love Like a Cephalopod.  At only 211 pages long, I could have read so much more about this fantasy world but it might have been a bit daunting for new fantasy readers like me if it had been the traditional epic length of a fantasy novel.

Love Like a Cephalopod is a beautiful, moving and entertaining novel that held my interest from start to finish.  I loved it and could easily read it again right now to revisit and re-experience this highly imaginative and stunning fantasy world.  Cassondra Windwalker is a hugely talented hidden gem of an author and I highly recommend this extraordinary novel.

Many thanks to the publisher Bayou Wolf Press for sending me a digital ARC to read and review; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

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