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Publisher's Summary

A bewitching epic fantasy about a revenge killing, a mysterious scroll box that has survived centuries of fires, and the book that changed everything

"Intricately plotted and gorgeously written, The Absolute Book is a cinematic tale that is by turns dark and dreamlike, yet ultimately hopeful." (Deborah Harkness, New York Times best-selling author of A Discovery of Witches)

"An instant classic.... It is everything fantasy should be." (The Guardian)

Taryn Cornick believes that the past - her sister's violent death, and her own ill-conceived revenge - is behind her, and she can get on with her life. She has written a successful book about the things that threaten libraries: insects, damp, light, fire, carelessness and uncaring...but not all of the attention it brings her is good.

A policeman, Jacob Berger, questions her about a cold case. Then there are questions about a fire in the library at her grandparents' house and an ancient scroll box known as the Firestarter, as well as threatening phone calls and a mysterious illness. Finally a shadowy young man named Shift appears, forcing Taryn and Jacob toward a reckoning felt in more than one world.

The Absolute Book is epic, action-packed fantasy in which hidden treasures are recovered, wicked things resurface, birds can talk, and dead sisters are a living force. It is a book of journeys and returns, from contemporary England to Auckland, New Zealand; from a magical fairyland to Purgatory. Above all, it is a declaration of love for stories and the ways in which they shape our worlds and create gods out of mortals.

©2021 Elizabeth Knox (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

Named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times and Tor

“Blends numerous genres with a skillful and inquiring hand.... Reading [The Absolute Book] is like holding folds of shot silk to the light, finding green flash in something that looks purple, and appreciating how thoughtfully the warp and weft embrace each other.... I'm in awe of...its precision and care, and its wry, understated humor.” (Amal El-Mohtar, The New York Times Book Review

“Majestic, brain-bending.... Every once in a while, as a reader, you run into one of those books that is just too big for your mind to entirely take in.... It's quite bracing to come up against the hard edge of your own imagination as you try to pursue a visionary author through the limitless expanse of hers. This is all to say that the experience of reading the New Zealand writer Elizabeth Knox's contemporary fantasy novel The Absolute Book reminded me of how I felt reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or The Left Hand of Darkness or His Dark Materials or, to move out of genre, Life After Life or The Underground Railroad. I felt that my position in relation to the book's capacious intellect and imagination and moral purpose was a vertiginous one. It was thrilling and frightening.... Each time I thought the book was done surprising me, Knox flexed her own golden gauntlet and opened another gate and flung me through it.” (Dan Kois, Slate)

"The Absolute Book has the feel of an instant classic, a work to rank alongside other modern masterpieces of fantasy such as Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series or Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is everything fantasy should be: original, magical, well read. Its language is assured, lyrical yet never overwrought, and in its surprising twists of fate, its deft characterization and constant forward momentum, it is both accessible and compelling. At 600-plus pages, a book makes demands on the reader simply at the level of how much time they are prepared to devote to it. Yet that very ambition, the sweep and heft of its ideas, ensure that effort expended is amply rewarded.” (The Guardian

What listeners say about The Absolute Book

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great idea but hard to follow

This story would benefit from a good editor. The transitions from one scene to the next were hard to follow. None of the characters really blossomed into someone you cool love, hate, etc.

6 people found this helpful

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I was so excited for this book! sadly disappointed

I will start by saying I have not physically read this book so I find it hard to distinguish whether the fault lies on the reader or the book.
Both have big issues which together failed me altogether. The reader is enthusiastic and likely this is her profession but using a different accent for different characters in this book DID NOT work for me, not just a deeper voice but from a British accent to an Irish accent and back to something between the two and used the same altered accent numerous times for different male characters. For me, it just confused an already muddled story. As for the story itself, I think if I read the hard copy this may be a different review because I love this type of blend between fantasy and reality. This story jumps back and forth with any type of indication it has occurred and it left me not able to throw myself into the story itself. I was never closely attached to any character and didn't want a win for any one or the other.
I truly was so very excited for this and maybe for that reason feel really let down but I would not give this as a suggestion for anyone I know.

5 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A good personal adventure

I picked this up because it was compared to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. American Gods, set mostly in the UK with a woman's perspective is a a more unavoidable comparison for me, both in writing style and plot. If you like Gaiman, and all his quirks, you'll like this.

5 people found this helpful

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I LOVE this book

I read the book over the summer and have been waiting for an audio version. This was such a delight. Narrated perfectly. The story is epic and full of interesting characters. I will definitely put this on my reread/relisten list. ❤️

3 people found this helpful

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Fascinating but dull

Really enjoyed the intricacy and detail but it wasn’t a story that had me coming back eagerly every day. It took me over a month to get through it.

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I’m at a loss.

I’m going to start with what I loved - the narrator. She was brilliant. She did her absolute best with the material at hand.

The story, though? Disjointed, odd. The author had some gorgeous ideas but crammed everything in with no explanation, no exposition, and no way to wrap it up. It just fell flat with too many threads left hanging.

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Interesting idea, but way too long

This book needed an editor. I really liked the idea, but I never fell in love with the chapters or understood their relationship to each other. The ending felt flat and too convenient, like it was just wrapping up the many loose ends.