A palimpsest is a manuscript page that has had the original text scraped off so it can be used again. Palimpsest by Cathrynne M. Valente is a gorgeous, sumptuous fantasy; reading it is like taking a luxurious, candle lit bubble bath.
Palimpsest is a fantasy city populated with weird and wonderful creatures that is entered through having sex with someone who’s been there. Those that have can be identified by the tattoos that appear on them after the first visit.
Visitors to the city come as a quartet. In order to stay permanently in the city the quartet has to find each other in the real world. The story of Palimpsest follows a quartet and the effect that going to Palimpsest has on them and their lives.
It is beautiful. And in the way of the truly fascinating it is both beautiful and horrifying. The story of how Palimpsest came to be is gradually revealed. Anyone who comes to Palimpsest wants to get back at all costs but they don’t know what was done to the people who have always lived there. They don’t know the horrors they’ve endured.
The language and style is ornate in the tradition of AS Byatt and Angela Carter. It’s indulgent like fancy chocolates and fine wine. I enjoyed this a great deal.