A few years ago, I stumbled into the world of the Poppy, I fell hard for Rupert and Istvan, cherished the little world in which they worked their magic and mayhem. I loved the book and hoped for more. A few years later I got my wish when Koja revisited her two gentlemen of the road as they drew a cobbled-together family around them in an ever more complex and rich dance.
And now, The Bastard’s Paradise completes the trilogy. I confess to dragging my feet over it in part because I didn’t want this story to end, and in part because I feared how it might end. Luck can only hold for so long after all. But I couldn’t not read it. It would have been foolish to deny myself this closing chapter.
Rupert and Istvan are older now, and graying. (You have only to look at the cover to understand what you’ll find beneath it.) They have their family around them, and are still players, with their outrageous puppets, their plots and tricks. But there’s a serious air about the goings-on now, a sense that things are changing. The secondary characters are now playing greater roles, and we find ourselves in a story within a story on a number of occasions; Rupert, Istvan, their family, and the puppets, all are being viewed from the outside, and from subsequent generations who capture the art of the puppet theater, but never quite the heart of it. That’s reserved for the reader who understands that in the end, it was and is about a brilliant marriage of minds and hearts.
As always, the language here is dense and difficult. Koja makes us work for her story, but it anchors the reader in the rich and complex world she’s created.
The final act, the encore, it’s all as it must be as the curtain falls. But my heart is broken. It’s over.