Reviewed by Kate Garrett
All Lies and Jest
Set in a London of the not-so-distant future (or perhaps of an alternate historical timeline), All Lies and Jest is a dystopian playground of cults, conspiracies, and subcultures.
Written in a light but realist style, with just enough gore – like romcom for the seasoned horror fan on holiday in Whitby – we have the story of Elinor, a small-town twentysomething in London. The USA has become the CUS (Christian United States) and they want the rest of the world to follow their pious ways. Elinor is sick of her Christian upbringing, and hopes to find people in London who reject religion and live alternative lifestyles. Maybe, maybe not. What she does find is an odd mix of beliefs and the people who subscribe to them, from vegan vampires to elves, Christian kinksters to flat earthers.
Yes, there are a lot of quirky characters crammed in along the way, but fortunately they don’t detract from the pacing of the book. It’s very funny in places, and for the most part smoothly plotted with well-executed twists. However, there are a few confusing perspective changes from first to third person and back again, seemingly with the same narrator (some parenthetical first person asides in a third person chapter, for example). These switches can be irritating, but the reason for them becomes clear in the end.
The search for belonging, and the nature of belief are core themes of All Lies and Jest, but it never feels preachy (thankfully, or it would be terrible at getting its own point across). Throw in the presence of several gay and bisexual characters, and the positive approach to kink – a woman is shown as a domme instead of the wrong kind of sub, however briefly, and BDSM as one-sided (male) pleasure in a hetero marriage is portrayed as unsavoury – and you have yourself a sexy, fun, refreshing novel. If subcultures and conspiracies interest you, you don’t mind a few corpses, and critique of blind faith does not offend, All Lies and Jest is highly recommended. I’m genuinely looking forward to reading more of Ms Harrad’s work.
Author Kate Harrad and publisher Ghostwoods Books will be giving away paperback and Kindle copies of All Lies and Jest during the bumper Pankhearst Summer Giveaway.