Jul 30
2019

Tor.com on The Border Keeper

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

“In Kerstin Hall’s Border Keeper the characters are required by natural law to tell the truth, and yet no one is what they seem. Familiar mythology is turned on its head. And ruminations on grief and healing are whispered alongside a quest narrative that is at once traditional and anything but.

If this sounds like a lot for one little novella, it is. Hall’s economy of worldbuilding is nothing less than profound. The Border Keeper, even aside from its haunting prose and memorable characters, is a wonderful example of its form. It is short, sweet, and anything but shallow.

The Border Keeper is simply creepy. It’s haunting and evocative, even beyond this toying with our expectations and comfort zones. Images like baby doll arms rattling in the wind, a child trapped inside of a crab, and creatures playing demonic symphonies on ghost ships fill the pages of the novella, every one of them surprising and vivid and a little bit terrifying. If Hall has built her world in familiar mythology, she has made that world interesting by turning it sideways and shaking it.

The Border Keeper is both readable and re-readable. So much in the story is significant only in hindsight, and its imagery is just as surreal and unsettling the second time. The ending itself, while abrupt, felt earned. Hall could write a whole series in this world, and I’d read ithowever, I love that this is a novella. Its compactness and its finely drawn characters make it a real delight to read and ruminate on.” — Tor.com

Jul 22
2019

Booklist on The Border Keeper

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

“There are three things to remember about the spirit realm: follow the rules, get consent, and do not eat or drink. Another unspoken guideline is to trust no one beyond the border between the mortal and spirit worlds. Controlling each domain is a god or demon who will kill for sport, especially anyone who breaks their rules. The border keeper has had many names and inhabited untold vessels over innumerable years, but she lives alone and does not suffer fools lightly. She once loved a god king but lost him to treachery and murder centuries ago. A wandering scholar arrives at her home, seeking passage, though he will not specify what he is looking for in the world of spirits. He has a sad story that brought him to her door, and for reasons she does not understand, will compel the guardian to accept him and act as his guide. With parallels to a range of mythologies, Hall’s elegant descriptive language evokes a vivid world of lost souls and revenge in this fast-paced fantasy debut.” — Booklist

Jul 17
2019

Library Journal on The Border Keeper

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

“Hall surprises and perplexes with spellbinding yet simple dialogs that raise more questions than they give answers. The mysterious, dark, and often violent worlds envelop readers in a cacophony of mystery and fantasy. Even the identity of the female lead is foggy as her form shifts over time, taking possession of new bodies. As the title reveals, someone protects the border, and from the first few chapters we glimpse demons reminiscent of Haitian worshippers possessed by Gede, the spirit of the dead. Shapeshifting and underworld realms take center stage. The characters eventually grow, becoming stronger as plots progress, expressing extreme power and weakness. Life and death feel mutable in the imaginary arena of Mkalis. Points of contact are elaborately visualized, boundaries normally fixed dissolve within the pages, terrifying and wild apparitions manifest and recede just as quickly as they appear, resulting in wonder. VERDICT For fans of occult-tinged speculative fiction.” — Library Journal

Jun 24
2019

Publishers Weekly on The Border Keeper

The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall

“This quiet but intricate novella, shored up by rich prose, takes readers through the eerie, fantastical terrain of the afterlife. A man named Vasethe comes to the guardian of the boundary between the world of the living and Mkalis, the spirit world. His request is an old and familiar one: for her to be his guide as he ventures into the spirit world of Mkalis to find the soul of his departed lover. As the story slowly unfurls, however, branching like the bloody, beautiful, and disorienting 999 realms of Mkalis, Vasethe’s secrets slowly come to light, revealing that his goal is not quite what he made it out to be—and also that his quest threatens the stability of the boundary the border keeper has protected for her hundred lifetimes…The tangle of love, loss, grief, and regret that is gradually exposed as the book’s emotional core feels tender and profound. Readers more interested in the journey than the destination will savor this venture into the underworld.” — Publishers Weekly