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A Thousand Perfect Things
Kay Kenyon
Premier Digital, 285 pages

A Thousand Perfect Things
Kay Kenyon
Kay Kenyon was raised in Duluth, Minnesota. She began working as a radio/TV copywriter for a local television station where she also did a weather show. Now, with several partners, she runs a transportation consulting firm, Mirai Associates. She and her husband live in Wenatchee, WA.

Kay Kenyon Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Prince of Storms
SF Site Review: City Without End
SF Site Review: A World Too Near
SF Site Review: Bright of the Sky
SF Site Review: Tropic Of Creation

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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One world, two continents, one bridge. That, stripped to its essentials, is the setting of Kay Kenyon's alternative historical romance, A Thousand Perfect Things. It's the details, of course, that make things interesting, and the details of A Thousand Perfect Things do not disappoint. On one continent there is a mid-nineteenth British civilization, dedicated to science and technology. On the other continent is an alternative India where mysticism and magic abound. Journeying between is a young woman whose determination holds the seemingly contradictory ambitions of a place in the world of academic sciences, and proving that magic does exist.

Astoria Harding has grown up with the stories of her grandfather's journeys to Bharata, and tales of a lotus with fabled powers. Tori sees proving the lotus' existence as the key to proving her worth as a naturalist. When her father is appointed to an outpost at Poondras, Tori is eager to go along. But her arrival is also part of a local ruler's plans, and events soon take unexpected turns.

It's not only Tori's expectations that are confounded in A Thousand Perfect Things, the reader's are, too. The opening setting, a mid-nineteenth century science obsessed Britain adopts none of the steampunk conventions that dominate alternate history these days. The relationship between Britain and Bharata is at an early stage, and much more evenly matched than the one between India and Britain in our own world, though cultural misunderstandings are every bit as evident. As a romance, Tori's relationships take on an unconventional path, both in the terms of story and her own views on marriage and relationships. And the conflict between the reality of magic versus science disappears as Tori and her family arrive in Poondras. From that point on, Bharata's magic is treated in the novel as realistically as the British technology, culminating in a battle where the bush priests' magic is every bit as effective as British gunpowder.

If there's a weakness in A Thousand Perfect Things it's that the shifts in theme extend to the use of characters, with the result that some characters feel under-used, the best example being a young lieutenant, who filled with the logic of realpolitik and armed with a self-confidence bordering on the insane, could have played a bigger role as a protagonist. The same goes for Mahindra, the political advisor who embodies the conflicts between British and Bharati culture.

In the end, though, A Thousand Perfect Things is Tori's story. Her dilemma is one that readers of Kenyon's Bright of the Sky will find familiar; faced with two equally bad alternatives, the only choice is to find a solution outside of the limitations presented to you. Tori's ability to do just that coincides with the conflict of two cultures mired in misunderstandings, violence, and death. It also makes sure that while Tori may not get everything she hoped for in the beginning, she does find life, hope, and, in the end, romance.

Copyright © 2014 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson often finds himself on a bridge between the alternative realities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Greg's reviews have appeared in publications ranging from The Minneapolis Star-Tribune to the The New York Review of Science Fiction.


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