Illustrated by Sasha Laika
Publisher: Quercus Books, Jo Fletcher Books
Publication date: 18 May 2017
Page count: 464 / 480 pages
Perfect for fans of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and Gormenghast, Edward Gorey, Neil Gaiman and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
The town of Rotherweird stands alone – there are no guidebooks, despite the fascinating and diverse architectural styles cramming the narrow streets, the avant garde science and offbeat customs. Cast adrift from the rest of England by Elizabeth I, Rotherweird’s independence is subject to one disturbing condition: nobody, but nobody, studies the town or its history.
For beneath the enchanting surface lurks a secret so dark that it must never be rediscovered, still less reused.
But secrets have a way of leaking out.
Two inquisitive outsiders have arrived: Jonah Oblong, to teach modern history at Rotherweird School (nothing local and nothing before 1800), and the sinister billionaire Sir Veronal Slickstone, who has somehow got permission to renovate the town’s long-derelict Manor House.
Slickstone and Oblong, though driven by conflicting motives, both strive to connect past and present, until they and their allies are drawn into a race against time – and each other. The consequences will be lethal and apocalyptic.
Welcome to Rotherweird!
I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review and all opinions are my own.
I have varied tastes in books and I am always on the look-out for something a bit unusual which is what attracted me to this book in the first place. This is indeed an unusual novel, quirky and sinister with a strong cast and peculiar setting. It is wonderfully Gothic with some very unusual characters some of whom are quite despicable.
It is also quite long at 464 pages plus depending on the edition so don’t expect to finish it in one sitting. It took me much longer to read than is usual for me as it is not what I would consider fast paced. This is not a criticism, it is simply that the storytelling of Andrew Caldecott is more of a slow burn and I must say I enjoyed the change of pace. I found myself thinking about Rotherweird and its inhabitants and trying to put together the pieces of the mystery rather than just rushing on with the book. I did, however, speed up significantly towards the climatic ending!
The novel is written in two different time periods, the origins of Rotherweird in the reign of Elizabeth I and (predominantly) the present day as well as from a number of different points of view. This ensures we get a good view of events from all different angles and character perspectives which works well in this context.
This is definitely a book worth getting in hard copy, I would suggest, to get the full impact of the illustrations, if the cover art is anything to go by. Unfortunately, the review copy from NetGalley only has 5 of the 12 illustrations included and I am therefore putting a paper copy on my birthday list so that I can enjoy them all.