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A graduate of Harvard College, Frederick Kirchhoff has held a number of academic positions and has written books and articles on many literary topics, including British Romanticism and the writings of William Morris. He now lives in Portland, Oregon.
on Aug. 23, 2013 :
In this fifth volume, Frederick Kirchhoff's fantasy series The Emperor's Library takes a new direction yet remains linked to the world-building and events of the previous books. Set in and around Gort, a city and state south of the imperial lands in which the earlier tales unfolded, The Chronophage is the story of Lim, a young man whose curiosity leads him into a dire and brutal misadventure . . . and then into an unexpected new life. Suspense arises from the fact that although the reader learns at the start that Lim was witness to, and was involved in, a mysterious and cataclysmic event that has just befallen Gort, only as Lim's story unfolds does the true nature of that anomaly emerge. Lim's sexual and romantic activities are part of the story as well, as he falls in love with one young man only to become physically involved with another. Temporal technology plays a part, too. How do the "kinetic sculptures" of the secretive craftsman Falke alter the flow of time? What will the ramifications be for those who experience altered time? And what are we to make of the eerie story Lim hears from the old woman Grillis, about a fateful place called Fessen . . . and the "Fessen leap" that the immense showman Larkos plans for his ultimate spectacle?
Unlike the previous books in the Emperor's Library series, The Chronophage is told in the first person point of view. Lim and a few other major characters take turns recounting their versions of recent events to a questioner from the Empire. Readers of the fourth book in the series, The Clavis, will recognize that interrogator as Rel, no longer the young man who became entangled in the world-changing events of The Clavis but rather an old man trying to solve a mystery. Not too old, perhaps, for one more adventure. And although the central figure of the story is Lim, one of the delights of The Chronophage is that each of the characters whom Rel interviews speaks in his or her distinctive voice, and each contributes a unique perspective on the recent bizarre happenings. The result is a narrative of action, intrigue, and vivid weirdness, woven together from the narrative strands of different speakers and the penetrating questions of Rel, who saw his world transformed once and now wonders what additional surprises it holds.
(reviewed the day of purchase)