Wasp’s job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-long ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They’re chosen. They’re special. Or so they’ve been told for four hundred years.
Archivist Wasp fears she is not the chosen one, that she won’t survive the trip to the underworld, that the brutal life she has escaped might be better than where she is going. There is only one way to find out.
This is one of the weirder books I’ve ever read. It’s also one of the best.
It works as a revenge story, as a regret story (is that a genre? It should be, and this is its herald), as a dystopian drama, as a coming of age tale, and as a myth of the post-apocalyptic, and it’s the single best deconstruction of the Chosen One mythos that I have ever read. It’s got so much in here about myth, and memory, and love and trust and brutality and UUUUUGH. (This is such a good book.)
Let me back up.
I had seen this story pop up in a bunch of year-end lists, but it sounded really weird so I put it aside. And then I saw it do the rounds again, but it sounded like it wasn’t my type of thing so I kept it aside. And then I saw it do the rounds a THIRD time and I said FINE these people who I trust say it’s touching and amazing and like “symbolically acute” and “insightful” and stuff, and UGH I guess I like after-world stories, I read a cool one with bees once, and this one has a wasp, UGH FINE WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DO THE THING, BOOK-TERNETS. I HAVE
I did the thing. I have no regrets. Wait, no, that’s not right. I kinda regret that I didn’t read it earlier? But also it’s a really brutal and grim story— which is legitimately not my usual thing— and you kinda have to go so far into the dark that you meet yourself coming to find the light, and I read it at the right time for me. I was already pretty far into the dark, so I didn’t have far to go. Prickly, vicious, wonderful Wasp was who I needed.
This is the story of Wasp, the Archivist of the Goddess Catch-Keep, who hunts ghosts and fights to stay alive in a world which really doesn’t want her around. Her life is brutal, and in her misery she makes a bargain with a ghost she should have killed. It’s a bad bargain, and she knows it is, but it’s her only hope.
Things get worse and things get better.