Kay Kenyon brings to life a tale reminiscent of true Victorian style with the added mysticism of magic in A Thousand Perfect Things. With a Victorian sensibility of the exotic, Kenyon infuses her mythical world with the real life relations of Britain and India. Kenyon’s storytelling lends itself to the entwined nature of magic and science in her realm. Through plot turns and twists, Kenyon stays true to herself and to the magically realistic world she had created.
In this epic new work, the award-winning Kenyon creates an alternate 19th century with two warring continents on an alternate earth: the scientific Anglica (England) and magical Bharata (India). Emboldened by her grandfather’s final whispered secret of a magical lotus, Tori Harding, a young Victorian woman and aspiring botanist, must journey to Bharata, with its magics, intrigues and ghosts, to claim her fate. There she will face a choice between two suitors and two irreconcilable realms.
In a magic-infused world of silver tigers, demon birds and enduring gods, as a great native mutiny sweeps up the continent, Tori will find the thing she most desires, less perfect than she had hoped and stranger than she could have dreamed.
Kenyon’s approach to storytelling in A Thousand Perfect Things presents itself as nearly scientific. Interestingly, Kenyon creates a world which is so fully realized that one need only to write matter of fact. That being said, there are many times where Kenyon lacks the thrilling tone necessary to truly propel the reader through the narrative. Passages with quiet moments are by far the best. However, the in between moments made me simply want to skip over a few pages until something interesting happened. Even the blazing actions scenes, which are not all together bad, seem somewhat overly detailed and lacking spirit.
The characters within A Thousand Perfect Things are somewhat mediocre. On whole, none of them were truly captivating or engaging. The most memorable is of course the main character yet even she seems a bit plain. Kenyon relies too heavily on Tori’s physical deformity and desire to be a scientist. While the combination of those two concepts isn’t common, there was little in the way of a personality- a glaring misstep in my opinion.
Despite the many aspects I didn’t like, there was something very classic about A Thousand Perfect Things that felt charming. For me, it was almost like reading a book with a cult following only to realize it too has its pitfalls but you find it enjoyable nonetheless. One of my biggest complaints was that the story seemed to have a natural ending that it continued long past. There was an attempt to mold these themes together by placing them in parts. However, I still would have appreciated more cohesion throughout.
Ultimately, I experienced mild boredom too often to really enjoy this novel. The entertaining aspects were non-existent in favor of beautifully poetic moments which frankly, aren’t my cup of tea. Action and romance fans alike will feel as if there’s something left to be desired. Overall, I wonder if Kenyon wasn’t quite bold enough with her plot decisions. This leaves A Thousand Perfect Things to be an understated novel which neither disappoints nor delivers.