High Times in the Low Parliament is a strange queer stoner historical fantasy novella by Kelly Robson. Released 9th Aug 2022 by Tor, it's 160 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats.
This is such an odd little book. It's undeniably well written, with distinct characters (human and fairy) and well rendered settings based on an alternate Earth in what seems to be the late Victorian era. The world building, magic systems, and pretty much everything else is barely sketched in or totally missing. Most of the characters are remarkably unlovable, although they grew on me over the course of the book. There are only female characters in the book, and, apparently, the world. There are only the briefest mentions of *why* that is, or the mechanics of how it works (apparently babies are gifted to humans by the fairies but no mention of why).
The titular political organ is filled to the brim with horribly stubborn, smug, acerbic, self-satisfied, and not terribly intelligent politicians. There's a *huge* amount of the content taken up with political protocol and posturing. The main protagonist is an eye-rollingly flirty "lad" whose raison d'etre seems to be an attempt to pull any girl with a pulse in a 50 kilometer radius. The pickup lines are atrocious.
The book is stuffed with drug use from cover to cover, mostly hallucinogenic. I don't mind personally, but it's definitely something of which to be aware if gifting this book. Especially given the current political climate with regard to public and school library acquisitions, I would strongly suggest caution in regard to adding it to any collection. Additionally, there are scenes of graphic violence which occur on-page.
It seems to be aimed at a YA/NA audience, but the drug use and deep sarcasm seem to make it moderately inappropriate for those readers.
The audiobook version has a run time of 4 hours and 36 minutes and is read by Amy Scanlon. For a short book, there were long stretches of dialogue which were nearly impossible to listen to without turning the sound way down to nearly a whisper. She narrates one of the main characters, Bugbite, in an ear-shattering screech that is literally painful to listen to, even after the character grows into a more sympathetic version of her earlier self. The sound and production quality are high throughout the recording.
Three and a half stars. It's well written. The author is certainly adept at her craft. It's also disjointed and just *weird*. I'm not sure for whom I would recommend it. The audiobook version is a no-go.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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