A Novel Imagines a Victorian England Ruled by France

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By Dexter Palmer

THE KINGDOMS
By Natasha Pulley

Speculative fiction and historical fiction are closer cousins than one might think, and alternate-history novels (such as Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” or William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s “The Difference Engine”) can give enterprising writers the chance to work in both genres at once. Fans of such stories will be richly entertained by the lavish world-building and breakneck plotting of Natasha Pulley’s “The Kingdoms,” and it’s best to approach the book knowing as little as possible, in order to experience the reveal of its setting along with its amnesiac protagonist. (Minor spoilers follow, so first I’ll spoil this review — effusive praise, with the occasional quibble.)

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