“truly magical” – Allen Stroud reviews The Janus Cycle on SFBook Reviews

The Janus Cycle cover image
Artwork: Alison Buck

In his review on SFBook Reviews of Tej Turner’surban fantasy novel The Janus Cycle, Allen Stroud starts by observing that every now and then he is sent something that “stretches the boundaries of my reading interest”, adding that The Janus Cycle is one such book. He notes that although it’s a novel, it could also be viewed as a collection of linked short stories, although he subsequently points out that while you can read each of the stories on their own “the last story really needs the others for you to appreciate its depth”.

The stories are, he says, urban fantasy pieces that “dial down the novums and focus instead on the human condition of each circumstance”. This allows the overall theme of ‘not fitting in’ to be “explored in a variety of contexts, with the magical levers only appearing at a key moment in each”. Allen then briefly describes each of the stories and their narrators, describing the first as “a surreal and magical trip” and the second as having characters that “are warm, real and endearing throughout the bittersweet narrative”. He says that the story of Frelia, a pivotal character of the overall arc, “is a much darker and shorter visceral echo of the Time Traveller’s Wife but has a similar way in which it explores the real issues of people’s lives”. Allen describes the final story as “truly magical and would not be possible without Turner’s careful work to put everything in place beforehand throughout the collection”.

Allen’s summary is that, although fantasy generally offers little in the way of attempting to tackle big questions, The Janus Cycle aims for some of those big issues – “identity, belonging and conformity” – and “uses marginalised characters to demonstrate one of the better truths of humanity; that we’re all different, but also that we can all be the same.” He concludes by saying that Tej is “looking at modern society and using a little fantasy and magic to make us see it in a different light” and Allen looks forward to see where Tej will take us next!

You can read the whole of Allen’s review on the SFBook Reviews site here.