Westside matches mystery with fantasy, coalescing to form a brilliant setting that showcases the author’s strong imagination. I loved everything about this book, from the characters to the witty exchanges between random characters to the many nooks and crannies of this fascinating place. It’s a true joy to imagine our protagonist’s surroundings, reminiscent of a crumbling Narnia mixed with the mystery of Stardust’s Stormhold. The combination of genres plays well with the mysteries of the setting, adding intrigue to every moment spent on the Westside.
The author has done a great job making this fantastic version of New York City feel authentic. The many events that have shaped this part of the city are fit into existing history, creating a believable past filled with lore. Backstories are done with precision, providing just enough detail to establish each character firmly in our minds before moving on. People from past and present float in and out of the narrative, making this a true mystery from start to finish.
I can’t say enough about the brilliance of this setting. It seems like such a simple idea on the surface, a rundown part of New York City that’s accessible through a guarded gate. With the first entrance into this other half of the city, those perceptions are shattered and you’re met with an entirely different world that defies explanation. Buildings are sinking into the ground, food rots in hours, things disappear if you look away for too long. No one knows why it’s happening and no one seems to care anymore. It’s the kind of place that’s feared by visitors and accepted by those who have grown up there. I love when settings become stories of their own, filling books with a presence that mirrors the main character. This is in the top echelon of that set.
Overall, Westside is a fantastic fantasy novel, featuring a compelling protagonist filled with gumption and a setting that will blow your imagination out of the water. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next book from this exceptional author.
By W. M. Akers
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.