James Kennedy’s debut young adult novel The Order of Odd-Fish is an extraordinary and delightfully weird romp that’s one part China Mieville, one part Lemony Snicket, with trace amounts of Madeline L’Engle and Roald Dahl.
Young Jo Larouche lives in a flyspeck town with her “aunt,” a golden-age film star named Lily Larouche who disappeared for 40 years (along with her sprawling home) before reappearing in the middle of the desert with the baby Jo and no memory of the intervening years. All that Jo knows about her origin is that she was found in her aunt’s clothes-dryer with a note warning that she was a “dangerous baby.”
Jo’s life is weird enough, but it gets a lot weirder fast when one of her aunt’s legendary parties is crashed by Colonel Koraskov and his talking cockroach butler Savino, who save her from a near-assassination by Ken Kiang, a billionaire who’s devoted his life to finding meaning by being evil. As they flee from Kiang, they find themselves eaten by an enormous fish that has also swallowed the lodge house of a mysterious order of knights called the “Order of Odd-Fish.” They are vomited — along with the lodge-house — on the shores of Eldritch City in the middle of a festival and are welcomed back as Lily, Korsakov and Savino’s memories return.
And that’s when things get really weird.
Kennedy has filled 400+ pages with a series of strange turn-ups and adventures that grow progressively more outlandish and funny, such that when you think he’s surely run out of runway and must crash, he finds new, unsuspected weirdness to explore. This is what Harry Potter would be if its magic world was truly wondrous and magnificent, as opposed to plain reality with broomsticks and funny robes. Kennedy’s magic children fight duels to the death on flying ostrichs, dressed as avatars of dead gods, wielding flame-spurting lances and reciting ritual poetic insults for the delight of toothless omnisexual crime-bosses. If that sounds like your cup of tea (it certainly is mine!) then this is a book for you.
An epic novel of exotic pie, Götterdämmerung, mutants, evil, crime, and musical theater, Odd-Fish is a truly odd fish, as mannered and crazy as an eel in a tuxedo dropped down your trousers during a performance of The Ring Cycle.
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