Book Reviews

Review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Not going to lie, I almost DNF’s Piranesi at the beginning. Very slow at the beginning, even the elegant writing wasn’t enough to save the book for me. But since I was buddy reading with Simone I decided to push through. And then around 40% I suddenly was way more interested. Keep reading this book review to see what I liked, and didn’t like. about Piranesi.


Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.


At the beginning, all Piranesi runs off of is atmospheric fumes. The vibes and elegant writing, combined with a rich, even if it is a bit confusing, setting overflows from the pages. Told in journal form, at the beginning it was very difficult for me to get into. I love beautiful writing, but in the beginning I need to be hooked. But the hook for Piranesi only came for me around 40%. The concept of premise is intriguing at the beginning, in a vague sort of sense, but really crescendos around then.

As soon as Clarke began to unravel the walls around Piranesi and reveal shards of the truth, I began to be very intrigued. To wonder what is happening and all these shades of lies, memories, and dangerous ambition. Piranesi is one of those books where everyone who’s read it need to chat because of all the spoilers you wanna talk about after finishing. So from about 40% to 80% I was swept away with the story and the intrigue. Only for the ending to be a bit lackluster again.


Considering all the revelations and the immense amount of work Clarke puts down in the beginning, the ending just felt hasty. And, in some ways I can’t quite pinpoint, uncharacteristic. Weeks after finishing, I’m still not sure how I feel about Piranesi because of how much I enjoyed the thoughtful exploration of the themes in the middle and the pure intrigue. Yet it’s one of those books you have to have patience for at the beginning. Plus I feel like we should all stretch the ending out in our minds. So consider this a tentative recommend with a few caveats – but ultimately for those who love thought experiments.

Find Piranesi on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


Do you have a favorite thoughtful fantasy book?

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