In this extraordinary stand-alone novel, the authors and translator of Vita Nostra—a "dark Harry Potter on steroids with a hefty dose of metaphysics" (award-winning author Aliette de Bodard)—return with a story about creation, music, and companionship filled with their hallmark elements of subtle magic and fantasy.
Late one night, fate brings together DJ Aspirin and ten-year-old Alyona. After he tries to save her from imminent danger, she ends up at his apartment. But in the morning sinister doubts set in. Who is Alyona? A young con artist? A plant for a nefarious blackmailer? Or perhaps a long-lost daughter Aspirin never knew existed? Whoever this mysterious girl is, she now refuses to leave.
A game of cat-and-mouse has begun.
Claiming that she is a musical prodigy, Alyona insists she must play a complicated violin piece to find her brother. Confused and wary, Aspirin knows one thing: he wants her out of his apartment and his life. Yet every attempt to get rid of her is thwarted by an unusual protector: her plush teddy bear that may just transform into a fearsome monster.
Alyona tells Aspirin that if he would just allow her do her work, she’ll leave him—and this world. He can then return to the shallow life he led before her. But as outside forces begin to coalesce, threatening to finally separate them, Aspirin makes a startling discovery about himself and this ethereal, eerie child.
An unlikely duo is at the heart of this alluring fantasy about the power of music from the Dyachenkos (Vita Nostra). Walking home from the club one night, DJ Aspirin encounters 10-year-old Alyona wandering alone in the dark with nothing but a teddy bear. Aspirin ushers the girl to the safety of his apartment only for Alyona to reveal that she is a visitor from another world searching for her brother, who will only be revealed to her if she masters a grueling composition on his violin. Aspirin doesn't know what to believe, but he knows he wants Alyona gone so that he can return to his womanizing life as a minor celebrity. Alyona refuses to leave until she's found her brother. Aspirin begrudgingly pretends to be Alyona's father, but the longer she stays with him, the more Aspirin's sense of responsibility for the otherworldly girl grows as dangerous pursuers from her homeland attempt to hunt her down. The change Alyona enacts in her reluctant caregiver is wholly satisfying. Fans of found family tropes will be pleased with this strange, ethereal tale.