March 2024

King Nyx

By Kirsten Bakis
Review by
Kirsten Bakis, author of Lives of the Monster Dogs, creates an atmosphere of gut-churning dread from the very first chapter of King Nyx. This is a scary good book.
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At one point in Kirsten Bakis’ second novel, King Nyx, Anna Fort, the protagonist and narrator, contemplates the tendency of evil men to wreck the lives of everyone they come upon, especially women and girls. Such men can never have enough money or power, and cruelty is their intention. Anna has spent a good deal of her life reacting to men like this. One was her employer and father-in-law; another a mysterious magnate named Claude Arkel who invites her and her eccentric husband, Charles, to stay as guests on his private island.

On a late autumn day just after World War I, we find Anna and Charles (who are based on real people of the same names) waiting for a boat to take them to the island. All the while, Anna hugs a cage whose cover barely protects the two little parrots inside from the cold. Anna’s obsession with their care hints at the lengths she’ll go to protect the vulnerable, introduces themes of captivity and freedom, and serves as a callback to the titular bird, King Nyx. Despite the mighty moniker, King Nyx is a toy made of tin. To the lonely, impoverished and motherless Anna, the toy—thought of as female despite the name—was a childhood friend and a totem. It will turn out that it still is.

Once on the island, the Forts meet Frank and Stella Bixby, a couple who enjoy a strange, and as we learn, very dark dynamic. The couples take to each other right away. Charles and Frank bond over their mutual weirdness, and Stella and Anna both need a female confidant. Stella is a fantastic creation: She’s quick-witted, mouthy, drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney and has a heart of gold. Indeed, the injection of humor in some very tense scenes comes courtesy of Stella craving a cigarette or blurting out a bon mot.

Bakis, author of Lives of the Monster Dogs, creates an atmosphere of gut-churning dread from the first chapter, when two strange women warn of trouble on Arkel’s island while the Forts wait for their boat. Trouble happens quickly, and there are scenes so anxiety-producing that you might want to put the book down and check to see that your windows and doors are secure. King Nyx is a scary good book.


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King Nyx

King Nyx

By Kirsten Bakis
ISBN 9781324093534

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