Skip to main content

Review - Rotherweird - Andrew Caldecott *****

I much prefer fantasy novels set in the real world, rather than some swords and sorcery kingdom, so was delighted to come across Rotherweird, with its cracking concept of an establishment from the sixteenth century that still exists in the present day as a town and surrounding countryside cut off from the rest of England with its own rich traditions. Rotherweird hides a dark secret involving gateways to an alternate world and a phenomenon that can produce strange combinations of creatures and abilities.

Andrew Caldecott builds particularly, I'd suggest, on the tradition of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books, in the gothic complexities and rules of Rotherweird and the odd names, with a touch of Harry Potter thrown in from some aspects of mixing this with modernity. However, the book stands in its own right as a piece of hugely imaginative writing. Some of the characters verge on cliché (to be fair, this is also true of Gormenghast), but there is some interesting development of them, which mitigates this to a degree.

Without doubt, there is a richness and complexity to Rotherweird's world, combined with a well-crafted plot that keeps the pages turning. I think my only issue with the book is the key potential failing of fantasies set in the real world: we can accept any oddity in the fantasy part, but the real world part has to be realistic. Here there are two bumps in the road. Science plays a significant role in Rotherweird (if not the plot), so I wish Caldecott had got some good science advice, as there are a number of issues with the science mentioned in passing. And the idea that a town could be complete cut off from the rest of England by decree in the 21st century probably needed more nuances. In reality there would have been Rotherweird websites, visits by drones and more.

These are small complaints, though. Overall, a great piece of imaginative writing and I am very much looking forward to reading the two (to date) sequels.

Rotherweird is available from Bookshop.org, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Mirror, mirror

A little while ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Royal Institution in London - arguably the greatest location for science communication in the UK. At one point in the talk, I put this photograph on the screen, which for some reason caused some amusement in the audience. But the photo was illustrating a serious point: the odd nature of mirror reflections. I remember back at school being puzzled by a challenge from one of our teachers - why does a mirror swap left and right, but not top and bottom? Clearly there's nothing special about the mirror itself in that direction - if there were, rotating the mirror would change the image. The most immediately obvious 'special' thing about the horizontal direction is that the observer has two eyes oriented in that direction - but it's not as if things change if you close one eye. In reality, the distinction is much more interesting - we fool ourselves into thinking that the image behind the mirror is what's on ou