Update April 2022:
Definitely more enjoyable the second time round. I had a handle on who was who much more this time. Strangely I seriously forgot so much of this even though I read it relatively recently. I also mentioned in the first review that it could be read as a standalone, I take that back somewhat. There is a good solid end to it but there is still a lot of mystery on what is really going on.
A very good 4.5 stars, rounded up
Original Review July 2019:
Quite an odd book that’s hard to describe. It kind of reminded me somewhat of the Library of Mount Char, with a little Gaiman thrown in. It’s definitely very British.
It’s all set in the town of Rotherweird, which, the reasons are explained through the story, is effectively an independent town within England where learning about the history of the town is forbidden and anybody not from the town or its environs is actively discouraged to visit unless invited. There is also quite a high level of intelligence and scholarship in the town which is odd in what is basically a small English town with no real significance.
Into this comes an outsider, Oblong, a schoolteacher (of modern history) after the previous went missing. Also the old manor is sold to another outsider, a billionaire called Sir Veronal Slickstone who’s purpose is not at first very clear. There are a whole host of other viewpoints through the book, too numerous to list. Most of the story is played out in the present, with a few flashbacks to the sixteenth century when the town was founded.
At the core of the book is the characters finding out about the founding of the town and what caused it to be way it is. This was quite interesting and I was as eager as they were to find out more about this mysterious place. The mystery gradually reveals itself and the book gets odder as it moves along but I quite liked it.
The only real problem I had with the book were the characters. There were so many that we only got to know them superficially so even towards the end I was referring back to the character list at the start of the book. As a reader of SFF I am very used to large casts so the fact I struggled with this is definitely a minus, only a few stood out enough that I wasn’t sometimes confused as to who they were.
Other than that though I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t aware that this is the opening of a trilogy when I started but it is self contained enough that you could read it as a standalone. Of course there are a few threads left dangling but there is enough closure here that it can be enjoyed without continuing.
Anyway I would recommend this book if you are looking for something a little different, a little quirky.
4 stars out of 5