Robin Shortt, Wellside (Candlemark & Gleam 978-1-936460-77-9, $19.95, 293pp, tp) June 2017. Cover by Jenny Zemanek.
High school’s bad enough at the best of times, but Ben’s having real problems. His parents are getting divorced and playing tug-of-war with his time, overbooking him for tutors and classes and meetings with lawyers – the last both for the divorce and for criminal defense, since Ben got caught hacking into a company’s servers and he’s going to be tried as an adult. On top of that, he’s a little obsessed with the strange new girl, Essa, who constantly draws a weird world inhabited by strange beings. Even though he hasn’t really talked to her, he knows she shares his fondness for the climbing wall in the gym, sneaking in at odd times. But then, one day, a mysterious door in the gym opens, and Ben and Essa end up in the strange world of her drawings, a giant well filled with doors to other worlds, a place where solid “ground” is all vertical, inhabited by strange creatures, steampunkish mechanicals, and beings of all sorts from the different worlds. It turns out Essa’s one of the Librarians, people of learning and power in this place – but a conspiracy threatens Essa, the well, and all its worlds. There’s plenty of threat and action in this grand adventure, but the inexplicable marvels are what really drive this promising debut novel.
Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.
This review and more like it in the November 2017 issue of Locus.