‘I was in a house with many rooms. The sea sweeps through the house. Sometimes it swept over me, but always I was saved.’
You know that feeling you get sometimes late at night, when the shadows are falling differently than you're used to and suddenly a room that seemed so cozy and safe and familiar when the sun was shining through the window becomes--different. Menacing.
PIRANESI is a lot like that, but in reverse. What is chill and foreign and hostile slips just a little sideways and becomes--welcoming.
In my father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, I would have told you.
Put another way: I used to love C. S. Lewis, as a kid, and then as I grew I realized that if he met me, he would not have thought me a friend of Narnia. Clarke somehow manages to evoke the feeling of Narnia--the spirit of it--beginning with an epigraph from THE MAGICIAN'S NEPHEW and with references sprinkled throughout the book. Without anything nearly as simplistic as a re-imagining of Jadis, the White Witch, she offers a counter to all the hostility and hurt those books left behind.
This is a book about transformation, about belonging, about tides--about ideas that iterate and echo and reform, transformed, and about people who do that, too. I really loved it.
Note: I recommend not reading plot synopses before you read it--there's a bit of a mystery that is delightful to puzzle out as the book takes you through it.
Also, the first line ("When the Moon rose in the Third Northern Hall I went to the Ninth Vestibule to witness the joining of three Tides. This is something that happens only once every eight years.") made me think that I would have to draw a mental map of the environment as I read, but later I found that the book was easy to follow even when I wasn't totally sure of where places were in relation to each other--so don't worry about keeping the Third Northern Hall straight from the Easternmost Staircase.