Monday, 16 February 2015

Review: Into the Wise Dark by Neesha Meminger

Review: Into the Wise Dark by Neesha Meminger, 2012
Genre: Urban fantasy / time travel
Challenges: Dive into Diversity, We Read Diverse Books January challenge (oops)
Published by Ignite Books

I have been terribly remiss at actually posting any review from my various challenges. Here's my first stab at fixing that by actually reviewing a book I read back in January.

Into the Wise Dark is a time travel/urban fantasy, with a British-American Punjabi heroine, Pammi, who fits awkwardly into the Punjabi community due to her mother being divorced and with a boyfriend who sleeps over. Pammi has a history of hellish psychiatric treatment, attempting to cure her of her conviction that she time travels in her dreams.

Thing is, she does. She has a parallel life, leaving her comatose body back in this time, to an ancient utopia called Zanum, where magic is real and she has a really hot boyfriend and an important role to play in saving civilisation from the Big Bad. It reminded me a bit of Inuyasha in the Indus River Valley, with less demons.

Back in the present time, Pammi is persuaded by her mother and her boyfriend to volunteer with some girls "like her" in a mental institution. Unsurprisingly, the girls all have magic mental powers, and need to work together to save Zanum and the future from the Big Bad from the past, who is now in the future and travelling back to cause disaster.

This was the part I really enjoyed. The girls Pammi meet are a diverse lot in every sense: ethnically, magic wise, personality wise, and with a matter of fact presentation of a lesbian couple. I loved all the scenes of Pammi's prickly, uncertain relationship with them and the way it develops, I loved their fairly transgressive use of their powers, and I would happily read a whole series about them.

I also loved the glimpses we got of a future dystopia; they seemed original and they haunted me.

Unfortunately, what I loved less was what I suspect I was supposed to care most about: Zanum, and its perfect Goddess-worshipping, polyamorous, magical civilisation in which women pop babies out in five minutes. Maybe this is why I felt troubled by so much sympathy for the Big Bad, who seemed cynically set up to fail by his society.

Pammi also does something I find incredibly ethically troubling later in the book, although it's impossible to talk about without too many spoilers. I'm hoping there is a sequel, because I want there to be consequences other than positive for the choice she made.

I'm hoping there is a sequel in any case. I really like Pammi, I love her friends, and I want to read more of their superpowered adventures. I don't really read a lot of urban fantasy, but I devoured this one.


Eleanor Beresford is the author of the Scholars and Sorcery series of LGBT YA fantasy novels. FInd out more here.

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