The House of Rust

Graywolf. Oct. 2021. 272p. pap. $16. ISBN 9781644450680.
When her father doesn’t return from a fishing trip, Aisha sets sail from modern Mombasa, Kenya, to find him. After facing down three terrifying monsters with only a talking cat by her side and a boat made of bones under her feet, Aisha returns home with her father to a life both unchanged and irrevocably altered. As her grandmother and gossiping neighbors, unaware of Aisha’s journey, accelerate matchmaking plans and the wild animals attempt to awaken the snake prince Almassi to protect them from the young monster slayer, Aisha hunts for the elusive House of Rust and its promise of independence from her stifling future—until the clash of all three plans becomes inevitable. With breathtakingly vivid imagery, unforgettable characters, and emotionally charged prose, this story feels timeless. Through a protagonist who finds the mystical more tangible than the real, this novel explores themes of power, faith, duty, and the reciprocity of love and kindness as deftly as Aisha wields her gutting knife.
VERDICT A richly layered coming-of-age novel steeped in magical realism and folklore, perfect for fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Gods of Jade and Shadow and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, as well as for high school collections, especially those supporting creative writing curricula.

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