On The Verge is a fantasy adventure with a supernatural mystery feel and some romantic elements. While reading the author’s descriptions of the environs and their contents I couldn’t help but think of films like The Ninth Gate, The Devil’s Advocate or End of Days. The tone is very sexual and ominous, and the book’s characters possess as much dark magic as they do dark secrets. If this sounds like the tone of a book you’d enjoy reading, On The Verge is probably right for you.
Beautifully written with words that dance around the page, On The Verge does a great job of providing the reader with detailed imagery and a number of interesting allusions to keep them invested. Seattle is painted accurately and the setting fits the tone well. Freya’s reflections on the novel’s set pieces help characterize her early on and give the reader a view into her artistic and social tastes throughout the whole.
The book is well researched and other than a few instances (the alternative use of the Russian word koshmer, for instance) where I couldn’t tie the book’s nomenclature to our own I found that the novel either taught me a fact or made a suggestion for something interesting to look up every few pages. If you like that element in a book, this one does it well and the author’s tastes (like Freya’s) are well informed.
The plot is strong and remains firmly within the rules of the book’s universe, which are fleshed out early on. The boundaries of the demonic and how they exist within the laws of reality are interesting, and the way the incubus and succubae are simultaneous aligned and at odds with one another and humanity give the book a complex and interesting central conflict. There are shades of Oscar Wilde in the book’s logic, which will appeal to fans of his work. The quest that the heroine is tasked with is standard fantasy fare, with Freya traveling to three different lands, each with their own cast of characters that are a combination of the bizarre and the divine to retrieve an item. She travels with a companion who becomes more, as heroines on quests tend to.
Throughout the story, the reader learns of The Verge, its inhabitants, and how Freya the art student navigates this strange world as it approaches a major event surrounding Halloween. Without ruining the ending, the book provides solid final punches and wraps up its main threads nicely. There is space for a sequel here and the world this novel develops has plenty of monsters and the monstrous, begging to be revisited.
If there is one criticism to be made of the novel’s style, it is that it pushes its descriptions too much at some points. Some go on a bit long and can lead to confusing sentences. An early example in the book is the line “the words slipped out of Ophidia’s mouth like velvet”, which, while a beautiful sentence suggesting smoothly spoken words, doesn’t fully land as a logical simile.
Mature fans of fantasy, the demonic and classic adventure tales will find this book the most appealing. It is beautiful and bedeviled. It is sexy and surreal. While there are a few stylistic hiccups and some longer, dryer passages that slow the pace, On The Verge is generally a well-written and exciting tale of one art student’s journey through a remarkable world. While the territory has been well worn, the author has provided enough modern twists on old concepts to keep readers engaged from start to finish. As a bonus, you will learn something from this book. I give On The Verge 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for reviewing purposes.