Night Vale is a small desert town where all the conspiracy theories you’ve ever heard are actually true. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge. Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked ‘KING CITY’ by a mysterious man in a tan jacket. She can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City before she herself unravels. Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it. Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: ‘KING CITY’. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures …if they can ever find it.
As much as I avoid audiobooks (and have on many instance reiterated this fact), I love listening to the Night Vale podcast. There is something about Cecil’s voice that makes me want to keep hearing, no matter if he is describing a blood stone ritual or a rain of animal carcasses. Night Vale is weird, period. And we have almost always heard only Cecil’s version of the town. With this novel, we see Night Vale anew from the eyes of Jackie Fiero, owner of Night Vale’s sole pawn shop and Diane Crayton (who has made many appearances before), the PTA head. When the Man in the Tan Jacket comes once again in Night Vale, he leaves chaos in his wake (but honestly, isn’t Night Vale basically a chaotic alternate universe of our world?) in the form of slips of paper that won’t leave their owner’s hand and only read ‘King City’.
Jackie is one such recipient and with her life in upheaval, she vows to get to the bottom of it, even if she has to brave the deadly Libraries of Night Vale. Diane, a single mother, doesn’t know how to communicate with her shape-shifting teenage son, Josh, especially now that his dad, is come back into town and is literally everywhere. Jackie’s and Diane’s paths cross in ways you wouldn’t imagine, with the Man in the Tan Jacket at the crux of it. Familiar characters like Old Woman Josie and Erikas, John Peter (you know, the farmer?) and Steve Carlsberg make frequent appearances in the plot, as does our lovable radio host, Cecil, and his boyfriend Carlos.
While this is about Night Vale, it is not strictly necessary to have listened to the podcast before, because the characters stories and new and you can even get the plot despite being a greenie. And even in the midst of weird happenings and strange universes, the novel finds time to devote to character backstories, which just goes to show how brilliant the writers of Night Vale are. What their motivations are, how they feel about Night Vale, what they think about Cecil (hee hee). We also get a hint into the canon of Night Vale, and how disconnected from our world it is. Honestly, it is weird but brilliant.
Received a free galley from Little, Brown Book Group UK via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or review.