A House Like an Accordion by Audrey Burges fantasy book reviewsA House Like an Accordion by Audrey Burges fantasy book reviewsA House Like an Accordion by Audrey Burges 

A House Like an Accordion (2024) by Audrey Burges has an absolutely fantastic opening line: “I was brushing my teeth when my hand disappeared.” Talk about a hook. What is going on here? The author had me at the start. Unfortunately, the promise of that opening line was never realized and thanks to a number of issues, the novel ended up being one I had to push myself to finish and thus can’t recommend.

Keyrth Miller comes from a family of “art magicians” (my term, not the book’s). Her father, for instance has the ability to draw things from life that will then become trapped in his sketchbook. Keyrth, meanwhile, can draw something in her sketchbook that will then appear in real life. For various reasons, her family lived a highly itinerant life when she was a child and then for other reasons she ended up in a series of foster homes. Eventually though, she met Max, who was working on creating an AI version of his recently passed father, thinking not only of himself but of helping other people keep their dead loved ones in some fashion. Years later, they have two teen girls, and their marriage is going through a rough patch to say the least. This is when she starts to turn transparent and realizes her long-estranged father must be drawing her into his sketchbook. Thus starts her quest to find him via finding the various odd and usually highly isolated homes they lived in (she has very sketchy memories) and using what she can sense of her father in them track him down to save herself. She’s helped in this quest by the only two friends she made as a teen: Tobias (first person she kissed) and Erma.

Audrey Burges

Audrey Burges

To start with the positive, the book moves along smoothly and quickly in terms of pacing, some of the descriptions are nicely visual, and the magic, if not entirely original, is at least not the run of the mill fantasy sort. And while they vary in effectiveness, Bruges incorporates a series of brief inter-chapters made up of letters, newspaper articles, and the like.

I had a number of problems throughout my reading, though I won’t name them all here. One is that magic felt overly convenient — when it needs to be able to do something it can and when it’s better for the plot that it doesn’t, it can’t (or the possibility doesn’t get mentioned). Other issues included several holes in the magic usage and in the plot overall, conversations that should have taken place but never did/do to drive the plot, some thin characterization, some implausible points, and finally an absolutely, horrifying appalling act by the main character that I had to read several times to make sure I had read it correctly. As is typical for these sorts of reviews, I’m not going to belabor these points with examples/expansion or list any others. Not recommended.

Published May 2024. Between the growing distance from her husband, the demands of two teenage daughters, and an all-encompassing burnout, she sometimes feels herself fading away. Actual translucence, though—that’s new. When Keryth wakes up one morning with her hand completely gone, she is frantic. But she quickly realizes two things: If she is disappearing, it’s because her father, an artist with the otherworldly ability to literally capture life in his art, is drawing her. And if he’s drawing her, that means he’s still alive. But where has he been for the past twenty-five years, and why is he doing the one thing he always warned her not to? Never draw from life, Keryth. Every line exacts a cost. As Keryth continues to slowly fade away, she retraces what she believes to be her father’s last steps through the many homes of her past, determined to find him before it’s too late and she disappears entirely.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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