‘Jane, Unlimited’ Bridges Different Genres All in One


Kristin Cashore, author of the acclaimed Graceling Realm series, achieved another success with the release of her first standalone novel Jane, Unlimited. Cashore’s work received high praise for its unique choose-your-own-adventure style premise and instantly earned No. 8 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Jane, Unlimited opens in Jane’s university hometown, where Jane is living an unfulfilled life as a college dropout. Her former English tutor Kieran Thrash visits, inviting Jane to accompany her home to her family mansion, Tu Reviens. At Tu Reviens, Jane is faced with five choices, each of which is explored in a subsequent short story. These short stories encompass multiple genres, including crime/mystery, spy adventure, horror, fantasy, and dimensional science fiction.

Despite this unique crossover approach, the novel comes off as a cohesive work rather than a jumbled together compilation. The stories make allusions to each other and seem to take place in the same universe. However, although the novel ties together well, with some scenes shared by multiple short stories, the overall effect is not repetitive. Each scenario is experienced from a different perspective and has a different relative importance to the plot.

The stories are also linked together by the same themes. Each explores Jane’s grief for her deceased aunt, her desire to follow her passion of umbrella-making, and her struggle to determine who to trust. It is interesting to see how Jane manages these issues and remains true to her personality in each story despite the different circumstances. The side characters are also well-written in this regard — their core values and personality traits remain consistent, but character development varies enough to keep the reader’s interest.

However, Jane, Unlimited did include a number of flaws. Most glaring are the increasingly wild plots presented in the later chapters. The art thievery and espionage premises of the first two chapters appealed to me, but the alien pirates, talking dogs, and Winnie-the-Pooh devouring houses of the later chapters seemed like an overdone attempt at originality. In addition, many of the short stories ended without tying up all loose ends. Although this was clearly intentionally done, part of me is still the 10-year-old girl who wants to kick a wall whenever I encounter a cliffhanger. When I found my inner tolerance and accepted Cashore’s choices about both the story concepts and the endings, however, I found all chapters enjoyable as a whole.

Overall, Kristin Cashore has managed to write another stunning novel. Her skills with plot intricacies, side character development, and writing style transfer perfectly from Graceling to Jane, Unlimited. I highly recommend this book for both returning fans and readers looking for an original twist on mystery.