Reviews and Interviews

Publishers Weekly: The latest from Koja (Skin) is a page turner with riveting language and close attention to sensory detail. Set in late 19th-century Brussels, the story follows the adventures of puppeteer Istvan and brothel owner Rupert who bond as friends and lovers.  The first half of the novel is set at Rupert’s brothel, Under the Poppy, a haven for bawdy puppet shows and loose women.  With war in the air, the brothel is forced to house soldiers led by a corrupt general. A mysterious assault leads to more violence and an exodus of prostitutes from the establishment.  Istvan and Rupert, with one of the former working girls, who morphs into a theater owner and puppeteer, leave as well and arrive in a new town, where they cavort with a family of aristocrats that includes Isobel, who falls for Rupert (as does her young brother, Benjamin, the family heir). Koja’s style is unconventional, resulting in a melodrama with deep insights into character and a murky plot balanced with prose as theatrical as the world it portrays.

Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow   This book made me drunk. Koja’s language is at its poetic best, and the epic drama had me digging my nails into my palms.

The Next Best Book Blog   Under the Poppy has this incredible old world feel to it, lush, rich writing that wraps you up inside of it and makes you woozy with its words.

VBPL Recommends   Calling this work well written is an understatement, as Koja elevates writing to literary art.

Fiction Writers Review   Under the Poppy is not an easy book, and its challenges are purposeful, as if Koja is daring the reader to let go and give in to the dream. 

The Turned Brain   Really there is nothing I didn’t love about this book. The ending was perfect and bittersweet, the characters to a one were exquisitely crafted, and the dialogue was a delight to read. Plus, Istvan and Rupert! Talk about your epic romance. Seriously.

Speak Its Name   Five Star Read

[L]ike being dropped into the bustling backstage of a down-at-heel foreign theatre. And it’s a wild ride.

Library Journal   [T]his is a love story about how, sometimes despite themselves, Rupert, Istvan, and their friends have created a family.

Stella Matutina   I enjoyed it all the more because neither the prose nor the plot is straightforward  . . . One has the sense that anything could happen. Anything at all. I love this. 5 stars.

Indie Booksellers Choice Award listing

Roof Beam Reader    The artistry of the prose, the fluidity of the language, the sensuality and connectivity of the descriptions no reader could ask for more, particularly from such an intensely romantic novel[.]

The Rejectionist   Under the Poppy will make you want to get out your very finest crushed velvet, drink a couple bottles of wine, and do something a little bit illegal with someone very good-looking.

Musings from the Mitten    In the end, this whole world is Rupert and Istvan’s stage; the others are simply allowed to play on it for a time.

Tracy Rowans Persimmon Frost    She does things no writer should ever do, but she does them so adeptly that they feel right.

Cleveland Plain Dealer   [M]esmerizing, humming with its own heat and originality.

When Falls the Coliseum    Under the Poppy was engrossing from beginning to end.

Readin and Dreamin    I just loved this book. I loved it so much that Ive been putting off writing a review because I don’t know if I can do the book any justice, but I must write something about it to recommend it to folks!

Readin’ & Dreamin’ Top Ten

Girl On Book Action    Istvan is driven and he cannot be anything other than what he is a player, an actor and puppeteer.

Thrifty Reader    I’m mentioning a lot about how the book was written because it plays a big part in how I enjoyed it.

The Ann Arbor Observer    You might want to appoint a lookout. Anything can happen to anyone Under the Poppy.

BookPage/The Book Case    Fans of authors like Sarah Waters and  Michel Faber won’t want to miss this.

Detroit Free Press    Puppets Highlight A Dark Love Story: A puppet makes a fantastic fictional construct.


The Oakland Press on The Company We Keep   We hope our patrons will follow us on the road of desire all the way Under the Poppy.

SexCity CIUT-FM interview    Smart, engaging, smutty, and scintillating radio, with Louise Bak.

BookPage    We see the world we inhabit through others eyes as well as, and sometimes better, more clearly than! our own.

The Big Idea John Scalzi    The biggest idea of all here is the pure pleasure and play of imagination: of making believe.  Under the Poppy is a stage of the imagination, and it sits waiting for you


PrideSource Media: ˜You have to show up for love is one of the themes of Kathe Koja’s latest novel, Under the Poppy


The Outer Alliance: Do you have a personal favorite mec?

Friskbiskit: We all wear masks for our lovers, we all enact roles, but for these two, the masks are visible.



The New Yorker online displays the Under the Poppy manuscript notes

Lambda Literary on the Under the Poppy trailer

The SunBreak judges Under the Poppy

Ellen Kushner breaks out the brandy and chocolate


Book Trailer

A theatrical shadow-show of passion and puppets: the novel in a minute’s nutshell.

And for those who like their pictures with (con)text: Under the Poppy is the story of an orphaned brother and sister, Istvan and Decca, and their childhood friend, Rupert, set in a Victorian-era brothel called Under the Poppy. The brothel is owned by Decca, who’s in love with co-owner Rupert, who’s in love with Istvan, who comes to town, louche puppet troupe in tow.

The lines of their desires intersect against a backdrop of approaching war, as old betrayals and new alliances ” not only their own ” take shape, hearts are broken, and the townsmen seek refuge from it all by watching the girls of the Poppy cavort onstage with Istvan’s naughty puppets . . . It’s a love story.

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