Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
Published: Kathy Dawson Books
Released: September 19 2017 (US)
Read: September 3, 2017
This is a clever absorbing novel that defines genre and age classification. It will probably push Cashore out of a young adult fantasy label, and cast her into a more literary role as author. It’s clear that this book has taken some time in crafting, and the end result is impressive and entertaining.
There will be readers who want more of Cashore’s fantasy style, so it would be easy to be disappointed if you go into Jane, Unlimited with that in mind. While there are fantastical elements at play, this sits more on the speculative fiction or magic realism spectrum, rather than the traditional high fantasy sub-genre. Readers are placed very firmly into a contemporary setting, and Jane is suffering uncertainty of her future in a very modern way – what should she do with her life? Find a steady career that will provide financial security, or risk an Artist’s Life? And yet, while it’s an important underpinning of the plot, this element is downplayed when we see that her anxiety really stems from the crushing grief over losing her beloved Aunt Magnolia.
Jane’s voice is lively and snarky. In her head, we see her counter many of the comments made by privileged and powerful people, but her demeanour is often quiet and accommodating. As the novel progresses, and Jane paradoxically becomes more assured and less knowledgeable, she speaks out, and makes braver choices. Her growth is inevitable but comes at a cost—more loss, and hard truths revealed. But of course, there are also great gains: a new love, a strong friendship, and a place to call home.
I am not certain how much to share of the specific workings of this narrative. Reading an advanced copy doesn’t give much of a clue as to how the final format will deal with the conceit of the book—that Jane lives through five different versions of the same three days. In the electronic ARC, it’s not clearly delineated the first couple of times, but by the third iteration, the transition is smoother and more acceptable. Do try to read this in print form, as it will allow for a much easier flicking back and forth, which is necessary at certain points in the novel.
It’s interesting what knowledge is gained and forgotten as Jane moves through the alternate realities. As observers, our role is to be memory keepers and hold the undeniable facts in our mind, even as they mutate slightly to the varying events and outcomes. We cling to some of the best results, and discard those moments where the villains go free. It’s a tumultuous experience for readers, both emotionally and intellectually. Trying to keep track of Jane’s explorations and discoveries means we need to accept that life is often messy and humans are flawed. We might also secretly wish that a place like Tu Reviens could actually exist, and allow us to work through our own emotional journey like Jane. She truly is unlimited by the end, having opened her heart and mind to the infinite possibilities life offers.
Thanks to publisher, Kathy Dawson Books and Netgalley for providing an advanced copy. Highly recommended to curious and eccentric readers who are on the look out for sophisticated and unexpected stories. There is much discussion and appreciation of Art and the role it plays in people’s lives, and a smattering of unusual relationships. There is also a message about being openhearted and non-judgmental regarding people’s circumstances, and a obvious love of animals, and a concern for the environment. Romances are quirky, the dialogue is sharp, and the journey is well worth taking.
Jane, Unlimited will be out in the US on September 12, 2017.