- November Aguilar
- Ludovico Conti
- Amaya Sei
- Oleg Sadakov
- Xiaohui's brother
- Sato Kenji
- Lucia Conti (and Paola)
- Amaya Usagi
- Lyudmila Sadakov
Inhabitants/Avatars of Palimpsest:
- Imogen & Philomena
- Rosalie & Scamander
- General Ululiro
- The Third Rail
- The Pecia
- Casimira's house
Figures from Myth and History:
- Chanthou (Who Loved No One)
- Mealea (Who Fell in the River)
- Lydia Weckweet
- Hortense Francis Weckweet
- Did you like the book? Why or why not? What do you think of
Valente's writing style?
- Which of the four main characters' chapters did you find most
engaging? Which did you connect with the least?
- Valente uses different tenses and fonts to distinguish between
sections set in the "real" world and sections set in Palimpsest. Did
you find these shifts helpful or distracting?
- Palimpsest receives the bulk of descriptive attention, while the "real" world streets and cafes are often nameless and generic. Oleg
even hypothesizes that his city, New York, is a fiction. Why do you
think Valente chose this approach?
- Did you enjoy the digressions on Palimpsest's history, geography,
and culture? Which story or location was your favorite?
- Clara tells November a story (pp. 217-219) about the origin of
Palimpsest. The story is supported by the photograph in the Palimpsest
maritime museum and referenced by the names of Nhean's ladders. Do you
believe the story is meant to be taken as "true"? Did it add or detract
from your enjoyment of the book to have the magic grounded in reality?
- Valente shows us two real-world factions, one committed to limiting
access to Palimpsest and one committed to spreading it. Did you have
stronger sympathies for one side or the other? What about the two sides
in Palimpsest's civil war?
- The nature of Palimpsest means the book has perhaps more than the
usual number of sex scenes. How did they make you feel? Most of the
characters are shown as willing to sleep with multiple genders; would
you consider them bi?
- On her first visit to the Floor of Heaven, Sei tries to dance and is
told by Yumiko that "it's a waste of time. We've cut it all down the
barest necessary interactions. It's better that way" (p. 105). She
never tries again. Other members of the Quarto similarly reject the
real world and interpersonal connections as the book progresses;
November turns her rings inward, Oleg stops eating. Did you sympathize
with their obsessive pursuit of Palimpsest?
- What do you believe is Palimpsest's greatest draw to the
characters? Are different characters drawn to it for different reasons?
- Hester is the only character who turns away from Palimpsest,
although others have experiences that are arguably equally as dark as
hers. Why do you think she makes this choice?
- Ludo paraphrases the Etymologiae as saying "that a creature can be
virtuous just because it is loved and sought after, that the act of
being loved . . . can confer grace" (p. 250) Do you believe Valente
intends the city of Palimpsest and its avatars (the Pecia, the Third
Rail, etc.) to be read as virtuous and/or "good"? Do you agree?
- Did you find the resolution of Oleg and Ludo's confrontation with
General Ululiro satisfying?
- Do you feel the book's ending is a happy one?
- In interviews, Valente has said "It's always infuriated me that in
portal fantasy the characters' main priority is to get home
immediately, and whine about it all the way there. Well, Kansas isn't
so great, really, and if I am honest with myself, I wouldn't care at
all for getting home in such a situation." and "It's a fantasy world
that doesn't say: you have to be white and straight and virtuous and
preferably male to live here." Do you think Palimpsest is successful in
portraying a broader, more inviting fantasy world? Would you be tempted
to emigrate if offered the choice?
- Did you read any of the on-line material associated with
Palimpsest, including the in-character blogs written for the pre-launch
alternate reality game and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a
Ship of Her Own Making? Have you read the original "Palimpsest" short
story? How did they affect your understanding and enjoyment of the
The original "Palimpsest" short story:
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making:
Palimpsest pre-launch alternate reality game Web sites: