book review

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with this review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: MCD

Pages: 351

Genre: Mystery, Speculative Fiction

Rating: 4/5

This quirky story revolves around our protagonist, who goes by the anonymous name of Jane Smith, as she tells us the story of her life starting with the unexpected delivery of an envelope containing a key to a storage locker from the deceased environmental warrior, Silvina. And if that sounds confusing then just wait until the story really takes off. Jane takes us on a labyrinth of twists and turns as she follows the breadcrumbs Silvina left behind. As Jane starts exploring the clues Silvina left behind her safety, as well as her family’s, becomes an issue since there are some dangerous people that don’t want Jane to find what Silvina had hidden.

This is such an original story and I enjoyed immersing myself in VanderMeer’s world. What this book is at its core is an ecological mystery which is an interesting mash up that ends up working so well. VanderMeer seamlessly weaves in facts about hummingbirds, salamanders, and nature in general along with slowly ratcheting up the suspense. We are thrown right into the story with Jane and since Jane is figuring out the mystery we are left in the dark with her while we wait for her to follow the breadcrumbs. This book also excels at the dichotomy of being both fast paced and slow. Make no mistake, this book requires work and effort as we work our way through the puzzle of Silvina. However, there are breathtaking moments that make all the slow trodding along more than worth it.

VanderMeer takes us on an exhilarating ride and the ending was both unexpected yet incredibly fitting. By the end Jane is a character that you have been through so much with that you can’t help but have an emotional connection to her. She is telling us the story in an intimate and almost journal like way that has left me still thinking about her months later. There is so much to talk about regarding this story but since I’m keeping this spoiler free I will just say that if you can get past the first part of this story you will be captivated by the rest.

This is my first VanderMeer book and it will not be my last. He has such a distinctive and eccentric way of writing that I really enjoyed and admired. I feel like this is a book for a very specific type of reader who doesn’t mind not knowing what is happening until practically the end. And even then it has some twists and turns. If you are looking for a book that demands you take your time to slowly immerse yourself into the story then this might be one that you could end up really loving.



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