Imago: a Dystopian Gothic, by Matthew Zakharuk

11 Jan 2024

The Book

Imago: a Dystopian Gothic
Pages: 336
Age Group: Adult
Published on 30 Jan 2024
Publisher: Self-Published
DystopiaDark Academia
Available on:


Tresor Institute accepts only the worthy, and Ada Călinescu is anything but. Intractable, mannish, a child of convicted terrorists, she can at best hope to be overlooked. Yet somehow the Institute accepts her application for transfer. Her ticket to the polar town of Heilung, home of the Institute, arrives free of charge.

Her only chance to forge a brighter future.

Except Heilung welcomes Ada with news of a brutal murder. Militiamen stalk the town, keen to fill their arrest quotas—and Ada knows she could make an easy scapegoat. At every turn the bloody conspiracy follows her, from the halls of Tresor to the arms of a stranger she yearns to make hers. What starts as a dalliance risks putting Ada at odds with the Bureau itself.And then expulsion will be the least of her concerns.

My Review

Imago: a Dystopian Gothic is a queer genre bending novel, written by Matthew Zakharuk. With an excellent use of a literary prose, Zakharuk has created a cruel and dark world, where our character will navigate defying the conventions established by the Authority, in a story that combines in excellent ways elements from gothic dark academia and horror.

Ada Călinescu didn't have many hopes of getting accepted at the Tresor Institute. Daughter of convicted terrorists, incorrigible; however, against all the odds, she is accepted to continue her studies in spellcraft there, in the polar city of Heilung. Spellcraft is the force that powers all under the control of the Authority; and soon we will understand that its study will play an important role in the plot.

Part of the charm of this book is the process of slowly unraveling the conspiracy that is happening at the Tresor Institute, and how from the first moment Ada arrives at Heilung, we can feel there's an unknown danger; brutal murders are happening in the city, and the militia is clueless about who is the responsible.
Ada herself is a peculiar character in this world, standing out against the conventionalism and all the customs established by the Authority, which has a fierce control over all the aspects of life. She represents the revelry against the norm, even if that means being pointed out; Ada doesn't forget what happened to her parents.

The world is bleak and cruel, a grey place where all is controlled and established by the Authority, a power that tries to eradicate all that goes outside of the norm; militia is the way violence is exerted over the citizens.
Inside the Tresor institute, spellcraft is investigated and taught, that source that powers the buildings and the weapons; however, behind the investigation of this force there are bloody secrets, and the prize of it is not known by many.

The pacing is a bit weird, partly motivated by the use of the prose, a literary prose that embellishes this kind of bleak world where the story is happening. Once Ada becomes part of the Tresor Institute, the story becomes totally unputdownable.

Imago is an excellent book, a well written dystopic story with queer elements; if you are in the look for something different, I would recommend you to check it, because it will blow your mind.

The Author/s

Matthew Zakharuk

Matthew Zakharuk

Matthew Zakharuk (they/he) writes trans sapphic fiction with a focus on the monstrous, the dreadful, and the thrilling. They’ve lived in Chernivtsi, Kyiv, and Dublin.