Amal El-Mohtar

There isn't a word wasted in Nino Cipri's Finna. For a book about travelling through nightmarish labyrinths that cut and twist between worlds, it's remarkably straightforward.

This book is 600 pages long. Let's get that out of the way. It is an enormous book, and reading it on a deadline for review does it a mean disservice. This is a book that sprawls into meta-fractals sentence on sentence and teaches you to feel Zeno's Paradox in your body as you bend and contort yourself into the reading of it, and is composed in such a way as to make it impossible to skim, so if I sound exhausted reviewing it, well, I am.

But more than exhausted, I'm almost irritated by how much I enjoyed it.

I came to The Starless Sea not having read The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern's fantastically successful 2012 debut. Curiously, though, I felt as if I had, and even as if I'd enjoyed it — likely, on reflection, through a combination of the gorgeously evocative cover and the fact that it was accompanied by a browser game developed by Failbetter Games, creators of Fallen London.

A few years ago I reviewed Iraq + 100, a project which invited its contributors to write stories set 100 years in Iraq's future.

I've long loved a species of historical fiction that takes the past's mainstream beliefs at face value. Often these read as historical fantasy: a world where the sun really revolves around the Earth, for instance, or outer space is actually full of aether.