King Nyx by Kirsten Bakis is one of the strangest and most unclassifiable novels readers are likely to stumble upon. Every time you think you have a grasp on what you think it might be, Bakis subverts that expectation and King Nyx becomes something completely different and wildly unexpected.

Let’s take a look at the genres that King Nyx circumvents with concrete examples of why those are evoked in the first place.

Historical Novel: King Nyx begins in 1933 with Anna Fort meeting novelist Theodore Dreiser before then flashing back to one winter in 1918 which had a profound impact on Anna.

Gothic Novel: Anna’s husband is invited to a working sabbatical at the secluded island estate owned by an eccentric millionaire. Anna has previously been committed to a medical facility to deal with some psychological issues and trauma management, so her husband believes allowing her to accompany him on this extended business trip will be therapeutic.

Mystery Novel: Before arriving on the isolated island, Anna hears tales of three girls who have gone missing from a school that has residency in the same mansion. This reminds Anna of a childhood friend who also disappeared and still haunts her memory.

Scientific Non-Fiction: Anna’s husband is writing a book about unusual phenomenon—such as odd things falling unexpectedly from the sky—which seem to have baffled scientists throughout history. Once on the island, they meet another couple, Frank and Stella.  Frank is a practicing psychologist, but Stella has reservations about his extreme methods.

Fantasy Novel: Before meeting her husband Charles, Anna comforted herself with stories of a bird she called King Nyx. This female bird would whisper to Anna when she was in distress and seemed to be a guardian watching over her.

Dystopian Novel: Upon arriving on the island, all new visitors are required to quarantine in tents for two weeks before being allowed to enter the estate. This is to ensure they are not bringing disease to the sanctity of the property.

Horror Novel: Mr. Claude Arkel, the eccentric millionaire has a collection of life-sized animatronic “dolls” he keeps both scattered about his property and within one secret room, which is locked upon entry.

Thriller Novel: Anna and Stella find themselves racing through the grounds of the estate looking for answers to several strange situations.

Biography: Charles and Anna Fort are real people, although the specifics of their life in King Nyx is purely fictional. The scientific work that Charles goes to Mr. Arkel’s island to complete—The Book of the Damned—is a real non-fiction work that Theodore Dreiser helped to get published.

Bildungsroman Novel: Despite being an adult, the “coming of age” of Anna is ever present with each new shift in the narrative.

In the end, Kirsten Bakis has crafted King Nyx to be all of these things and none of these things simultaneously. Probably the most accurate label that can be given to this complex novel is as a feminist manifesto—but even that seems reductive. It’s literally a textbook example of “one of a kind.” Readers coming to King Nyx will take from it what they need or want it to be. While some of the plot developments are less than revolutionary, what Bakis does with them after the revelation feels both unique and important. With Bakis’ stunning use of language and a beautiful unfolding of the plot, it’s hard to imagine that any reader would be disappointed about having taken this journey with such a talented author.

Kirsten Bakis’ King Nyx does not attempt to provide all the answers—or maybe any of the answers—to life’s biggest mysteries, but it does a compelling job of analyzing society and how women fit within it—doing so by elucidating one specific example that readers can then extrapolate across the many years of history.

BUY LINKS: King Nyx by Kirsten Bakis