Calenture by Storm Constantine

Updated: 4 days ago

Calenture by Storm Constantin (Headline, 1994)

Calenture is easily characterised as a fantasy novel, because the genre is exceptionally wide, but beyond that it is a tricky work to define. I was left with the impression of having read one of the most inventive and unusual narratives I have ever encountered.

The world of Calenture is a dynamic one. Cities float across the flat lands, with the mountains a distant mystery. Their path is set by stones, placed in lines by terranauts, although collisions happen and sometimes mischievous rearrangement of the stones means that cities grind to a halt. Leaving your city is fairly traumatic, since your home won’t be in the same place again, which is why Ays’s bungling of a death ritual leading to banishment is so distressing to him.

Finnigin’s journey is, by contrast, a long-anticipated opportunity. As a terranaut, he has grown up knowing that one day he will leave his group and explore the world alone. Having some unusual experiences is an expected part of his journey into adulthood, and he is particularly keen to see what cultures are living in the mountains.

The cover of Calenture by Storm Constantine shows hans reaching out to lift someone up.
Calenture by Storm Constantine

The creator of this whole bizarre universe is Casmeer, who lives alone in a deserted world, fighting off flying plumosites who raid his city home. They seek to snatch the crystals that are the physical remains of other people, alive by calcified. Casmeer creates fictional characters within his empty world, aware of his status as author, which gives ‘Calenture’ something of a self-referential feel.

The layering of detail in Calenture was truly unique. There was so much to grasp that at times it became overwhelming, but the detail is what makes any fantasy universe come alive and I loved immersing myself in it. Casmeer, Ays and Finnigin were likeable and relatable characters, notwithstanding their oddities.

The focus on detail meant that the plot moved slowly, and at times it felt as if the lumbering cities were more agile. This is a long novel and it took its time getting there, but that gave me space along the way to enjoy the locations, the whole unusual premise and the characters.

I can’t recommend Calenture by Storm Constantine highly enough. I don’t often encounter truly original plots and universes, so it was a joy to read.

Thank you for reading my review. See you on Friday. In the meantime, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested in reading my review of Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake here. Or you might like to take a look at my review of The Circus of Dr Lao by Charles G Finney here.

If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of The Woods by Harlen Coben here.

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