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The Splendid City

by: Karen Heuler


As a punishment for misuse of her powers, a newbie witch and her annoying talking-cat frenemy are sent to live in the state of Liberty, where everything is just a little… off.

File Under: Fantasy  [ Liberty for All | Water is Beautiful | Eyes Everywhere | Stanning for Stan ]


The Splendid City is the state of Liberty. Water is rationed at alarming prices, free speech is hardly without a cost, and Texas has just declared itself its own country. In this society, paranoia runs deep. Eyes and ears are all around in the form of giant animatronic president heads. They are judging. Always judging. And waiting to strike.
This terrifying terrain is explored via Eleanor – a young woman eagerly learning about the gifts of her magic through the support of her coven. Being a white witch is not as easy as portrayed in books. Eleanor has already been placed under house arrest. But not alone. She must coexist with a letch named Stan, a co-worker who wronged her in the past and now exists in the form of a cat. A talking cat, who loves himself, craft beers and ‘shooting’ people.
Eleanor has no time for Stan and his shenanigans. Their love-hate relationship takes many twists and turns while Eleanor helps to locate a missing witch who she thinks is mysteriously linked to the shortage of water in Liberty. But she should keep an eye on Stan. He is following a treasure hunt and won’t hesitate to trade Eleanor for the prize…

The Splendid City is a splendid read indeed!”
– Ann VanderMeer, Award Winning Editor of The Big Book of Modern Fantasy
Release Date


The Splendid City

Paperback, Ebook

Paperback ISBN




Karen Heuler is the author of The Splendid City. Her stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies, from Conjunctions to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to Weird Tales, as well as a number of Best Of anthologies. She has received an O. Henry award, been a finalist for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction, and a bunch of other ritzy awards. Her stories and books often feature women facing strange circumstances on this world and others. Karen Heuler lives in New York City with a large dog and two alarmed cats.

Karen Heuler's website | Twitter | Facebook   

“A sharp, lively, funny contemporary fantasy with the feel of an up-to-date, more adult version of L Frank Baum’s Oz books.”
The Guardian

“Both sad and hilarious, by mixing the madness of our modern-day political landscape with the fantasy rules of witchcraft, The Splendid City crafts a perfect quirk that ramps to wtf levels of genre-bending weirdness while packing enough common sense and humour to deliver something meaningful in a story about a white witch and her human-cat that shoots old ladies who disagree with him at the bus stop.”
– SciFiNow

“Karen Heuler’s The Splendid City is a wonderful fabulation, both humorous and contemplative, about the desperate state of US politics and society. In this world without a moral center, Eleanor, a witch, and her black cat familiar, Stan, who walks on two legs and packs a gun, much like Behemoth from Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, are called to solve a mystery. The writing is engaging and smooth, with excellent banter, as the communal power of women works to find a purpose in a crazy world.”
– Jeffrey Ford, author of Big Dark Hole

“A thoroughly original and quirky novel. You’ll find witches, cats, animatronic politicians and much more besides – plus sinister undertones combined with laugh-out-loud surrealism.”
Liz Williams, author of Comet Weather

“Karen Heuler’s soaring imagination is matched only by her integrity of vision and humanity. She’s always a must read.”
– Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World and The Pallbearers Club

“A sly and wild and funny book which uses witches, talking robotic heads, water shortages, the internet, a revolution, and a cat who used to be human (and who is now pretending to be a human with a skin condition) to cheerfully dissect the travails of what it is like to live in contemporary America. Satirical, and yet somehow more than just a satire, the joy of The Splendid City lies in the quirky and all-embracing exuberance of Heuler’s imagination.”
– Brian Evenson, World Fantasy Award winner of Song for the Unraveling of the World

“With its whimsy, compassionate characterizations, and sly satire, The Splendid City recalls the best of Terry Pratchett. A delight from start to finish.”
– Gregory Norman Bossert, filmmaker, writer and World Fantasy Award winner

The Splendid City is a splendid read indeed! How can anyone resist talking cats? I know I can’t. This novel is so much fun and yet there is a deeper, darker story here. Seriously, the best political fiction sneaks its way into our hearts and minds rather than hitting us on top of our heads. Heuler’s excellent imagination and biting humor brings it all together.
– Ann VanderMeer, Award Winning Editor of The Big Book of Modern Fantasy

“It might seem impossible to see the humor in the nightmarish absurdities, disinformation, paranoia, and fanaticism of contemporary life… but Karen Heuler’s specialty is accomplishing the impossible. In a world filled with malevolent surveillance drones and animatronic President heads, a gun-toting cat with a hair-trigger temper and a witch with an inconvenient penchant for the truth have to contend with a reality that makes them look sensible by comparison. Pre-order this book immediately. It is a joy.”
– Chandler Klang Smith, author of The Sky Is Yours

“A fun, whimsical, fantastical satire that rips open the absurdity of everything yet still somehow manages to leave the beating heart intact.”
– Yume Kitasei, author of The Narrow Road to the Deep Sky

“Whimsical, satiric, and bursting with imagination, The Splendid City is the novel we’ve all been waiting for from Karen Heuler, one that takes all the ingredients she’s honed over decades of publishing quality literary and fantasy fiction and distills it into a perfect nugget of a novel. I’ve long thought Heuler deserved a larger audience, and this funny, accessible novel should be what finally draws them in. Also, as a cat owner, I felt a lot of this deep in my soul!”
– Nicholas Kaufmann,
bestselling author ofThe Hungry Earth

“The dialogue is clever and the satire spot-on. The social commentary hits the nail on the head.”
– Booklist

The Splendid City is a compelling book, compulsively readable.”
– Grimdark Magazine

“loved how cleverly and deftly Heuler balanced the absurd with the political.”
– Locus Magazine



“Heuler’s prose illuminates the strangeness of both her characters and her settings. Establishing elaborate themes and morals is no easy feat in such short narrative arcs, but Heuler does it admirably, quickly laying the groundwork for her myriad of worlds, cultures, and travelers.”
Publishers Weekly, on Other Places

“Heuler continues to delight with her thoughtful brand of modern surrealism / magic realism – a criminally underrated writer.”
– Jeff VanderMeer, NY TIMES bestselling author of The Southern Reach Trilogy