Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore – Kathy Dawson Books – Published 19 September 2017
Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.
Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.
Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.
Jane Unlimited is another book I have read recently solely because of the author. I found the synopsis confusing and was a little unsure what type of story this would be, but I decided to pick it up anyway because I loved, loved Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series. The few things I did know about the story prior to reading it were: a) it is genre defying, b) it is almost a choose-your-own-ending book, but is written to be read in order, and c) umbrellas get mentioned quite a bit. Otherwise I was a tad confused about it all. Now that I have finished reading it I can say that, unfortunately, it wasn’t the right book for me. Jane, Unlimited is a combination of many classics with its own, very unique style and a mixture of mystery, science fiction, and fantasy.
Jane’s aunt made her promise to accept if she was ever invited to stay at the mysterious grand house Tu Reviens. So, when Jane’s friend Kiran offers just such an invitation, Jane agrees. But Tu Reviens contains many secrets and intriguing mysteries and Jane’s own choices will influence what she will uncover and how that will change her destiny.
In her author’s note Cashore indicates that Jane, Unlimited reflects a number of literary works including Jane Eyre, Rebecca, and The House of Mirth. Jane, Unlimited’s tone and style are very much reflective of these novels. It actually reminded me of a novel that I would be asked to read for senior English or a university course and then have to analyse it to death. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it, because those are not my favourite type of books, but I can imagine someone who loved those classics really enjoying this book.
Unfortunately, I found the book to be very slow. It seeded to take me twice as long to read it than it would usually take me to read a book of a similar length. But it was more than that, everything just happened slowly, despite a few scenes with heightened suspense. The story just didn’t grip me, but I think I will be amongst the minority of people who don’t enjoy this story.
I think it is worth noting that Jane, Unlimited is inclusive of many diverse characters, including LGBT characters – Jane is bisexual and another character is described as demisexual – and the romance is predominately LGBT.
I was confused by the first section of the story, unsure where the book was leading. Things got more interesting once Jane’s choices were made clear and how the choose-your-own-adventure part of the book would play out. This begins about a third of the way into the book. A new section highlights Jane’s first choice and readers see this option through to a conclusion, where a new section is then introduced and readers are taken back to that same first crossroads-like position, but this time Jane makes a different choice, decides to follow a different line of inquiry and so the same events are played out again, but from a different perspective. Of course, the reader now knows more than Jane does and can infer more meaning to things. Once this second choice works its way to a conclusion, slightly different from the first but with many crossovers, the story bounces back to Jane making a third, different decision. This happens five times in totality. Five different choices, simple choices about which person to follow and talk to, resulting in five very different story lines. I thought it was very clever, how these sections didn’t become repetitive, despite the reader’s increased familiarity with the characters and facts. This might be because things get a little crazy by the third choice, where we jump genre from mystery to …horror, maybe, I’m not sure how else to describe it, it has a dream-like quality. The fourth choice ventures into science fiction and the last of Jane’s choices is far more fantasy than anything else.
I was hoping for some great reveal at the end that would make everything leading up to it all come together and make sense or blow my mind. I was very underwhelmed by the ending. There was no great significance revealed (if there was, I missed it) and the surprise twist wasn’t all that surprising given the clues spread throughout. Again, I believe other readers, especially those who like the classics, may enjoy this book, but it wasn’t something that gripped me.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Genre: Fantasy, Science-fiction.
Themes: Jane Eyre, LGBT, Rebecca, art theft, spies, espionage, secrets, family, aunts, photography, romance, friendship, umbrellas.
Reading age guide: Ages 14 and up.
Advisory: Sexual references, implied sex scenes, references to characters having multiple sexual partners. Infrequent coarse language, f*** (10), sh** (13), assh*** (10), bit** (1).
Published: 19 September 2017 by Kathy Dawson Books.
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 464 pages.