Monday, April 6, 2020

Review: The Book of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey

The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy, #1)
The Book of Koli (The Rampart Trilogy #1) by M.R. Carey
Publication Date: April 14th, 2020
Paperback. 416 pages

About The Book of Koli:

"Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable world. A world where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don't get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will. 

Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He knows the first rule of survival is that you don't venture beyond the walls. 

What he doesn't know is - what happens when you aren't given a choice?"

This book was so much weirder than I anticipated and it took me a while to get into it. I was actually on the verge of DNF-ing it for quite a while in the beginning, but there was just something that kept pulling me towards the story, and I'm glad I stuck with it long enough because I eventually found myself completely captivated by this story and the characters within.

I'm not sure how to start this review. Koli Woodsmith is a young adult who is on the verge of undergoing a traditional 'testing' that everyone in his village does undergoes as part of a transition from child to adult. This test is to discover who is a Rampart, one of the rare members of the village who can make the old tech from the past work, or if he is to become like most of the other members of the village who cannot. Now, the synopsis also mentions that they live in a village where they are surrounded by "choker trees and deadline vines and seeds that will kill you where you stand," and I must say that they play a much smaller role than I expected. I enjoyed the story that we were given, but I do think that synopsis left me feeling a bit misled about the main objectives of this story, though perhaps they will end up playing a larger role in the subsequent books in this trilogy.

The first thing that you will probably notice in this book is Koli's manner of speaking, which makes up the first person narrative of the book. It comes across as having poor grammar and of Koli being uneducated, but it fits very well with the setting of this world and village that feels almost lost in time. I was not expecting this style of voice, so it threw me off and at first I wondered if it would be something that would irritate me throughout the entire book, but fortunately as I continued to get more into the story, I stopped noticing it as much and I found that it really complemented the atmosphere and overall setting of the story in a perfect way. It still takes some time to get used to, especially since there are plenty of in-world words and ways of saying things that are confusing at first, but it really does come together well. It's always a risky move to me when authors experiment with narrative in the way, but I would say that it paid off overall for Carey.

Koli, as mentioned, is the speaker of our main and only POV, and I found him to be a very relatable and sort of 'average' young man. He had a lot of thoughts and made many decisions that I could easily see myself or others make given the limited information that he has at various times in the story. His storytelling is not rushed, but rather he tells the reader the story in the manner that he prefers, often falling into digressions after saying something like "but I'll tell you about that in a little while," which, admittedly, tends to frustrate me a little in books, but as with other elements of this story, after a while I just sort of fell into it and found it to be another facet of the style of this book and it worked well.

A few other prominent characters are Monono Aware, Ursula, Koli's mother and sisters, his fellow-aged friends, and those who become Ramparts. Monono Aware is probably the most prominent secondary character, I'd say followed closely by Ursula, a woman that I really liked. Monono Aware is one of those characters that I wasn't sure about at first, disregarding her rather odd "form," but she slowly grew on me much in the same way that I think Koli grew on her. There was such a unique method of relationship between the two and I think that odd dynamic really contributed a compelling element to this story. Ursula is a slightly more mysterious figure that we don't know as much about, but she is just as compelling, if not more, than any other in this story. It is through Ursula that we are really able to move forward in the plot and learn more about this weird world and its past.

The last thing I want to comment on is the entire setting and world-building of The Book of Koli. Although I still find it a bit mysterious and I'm still not entirely sure of what happened in the past, I think Carey does a truly excellent job of creating this background that fits so perfectly with the atmosphere and rather piecemeal explanations that we get from Koli as he, as the same time, learns more about this world. The existence of the old tech intrigues me, as well as the different people and places that still seem to exist outside of Koli's village, and I look forward to hopefully exploring more of all of these topics in future books, though I did really enjoy experiencing the day-to-day life of Koli's village and getting a glimpse into what their existence was like.

Overall, I've given The Book of Koli a rating somewhere between 3.75-4 stars. The more I write this review and think about the book, the fonder I feel of it, but I recall struggling a lot with getting into the story and my constant "should I DNF or not" debate for a good portion at the beginning. That being said, if you also get off on a rough start with this book I'd encourage you to keep going--you might just end up as captivated by the world and story as I ended up being! Carey certainly has a gift for crafting a unique and unpredictable tale and I look forward to future installments of the Rampart trilogy.

*I received a copy of The Book of Koli courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


  1. I know Koli's voice doesn't work for everyone, although it never bothered me for some reason. I was also thinking the deadly plants and trees would play a bigger part in the story, but maybe in the next book we'll see more of that.

  2. This definitely sounds like it rewards sticking with it, so that's good to know. I've seen this one pop up here and there and I've been curious, to be honest. In fact the cover made me think of Annihilation a little bit, although after reading your review I see this is a totally different thing.

    The "old tech from the past" caught my eye too because I always go for that trope lol. I love the whole rediscovering thing haha. As for the POV/ manner of speaking, that definitely is a style that can be tough to get into, but I'm glad it mostly worked out in the end!