Author Jonathan N. Pruitt’s debut novel explores the pressure and secrecy of elite academic institutions, a subject on which he has real-life experience. Pruitt is in the process of reinventing himself, from disgraced academic to fantasy writer. With the release of The Amber Menhir, Pruitt has cemented himself as a force to be reckoned with in the literary world.
Before authoring a dark academia fantasy series, Pruitt was a researcher in the field of behavioral evolution. His works with spiders at universities across the United States and Canada were highly celebrated, before several of his papers were retracted due to suspected manipulation several years ago. The resulting scandal ruled Pruitt’s life for years, but this narrative was not the pyre upon which his spirit burned. Rather, Pruitt has spun scandal into a reinvention that could reasonably be called a dark metamorphosis. Major life events like divorce or the death of a loved one can fundamentally change one’s perspective, and Pruitt reflects on these truths in his series, The Shadows of The Monolith, with wit and wisdom.
The first book in the series, The Amber Menhir, was released on October 3 this year. Pruitt describes the series as an exploration of dark, academic settings with an epic fantasy twist. The Amber Menhir follows a diverse cast of characters through a dystopian setting, where their world is headed for disaster at the hands of an entity known as “Calamity,” which draws closer each day. The planet’s only hopes against Calamity are the menhirs, ancient and revered institutions of magical learning and research. However, when three new students are inducted into the menhirs, they find a secretive world fraught with deceit.
The Amber Menhir follows in the footsteps of popular dark academia fantasy books like The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake and Babel by R.F. Kuang. Dark academia became an extremely popular aesthetic in 2020, categorized by antique buildings, classic literature, and a lot of plaid clothing. Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is touted as the start of the dark academia genre of literature, with authors like Pruitt putting a fantasy twist on the secretive, obsession-filled stories that aim a critical eye at elite institutions.
As a former academic himself, Pruitt is uniquely poised to criticize the world of higher education. In The Amber Menhir and the upcoming two books in The Shadows of the Monolith series, Pruitt uses the concepts of utopia and dystopia to explore current societal issues, including politics, collaboration, and class. The menhirs may be fictional, but Pruitt uses them as an analogy for myriad organizations in our world. The resulting series is enjoyable for fantasy and dark academia fans alike.
Pruitt is already hard at work on the second installment of the series, The Eggs Inside, slated for a summer 2024 release. In the meantime, those with a taste for the sinister can grab a copy of The Amber Menhir and join the fray.