In a slightly alternate London in 1983, Susan Arkshaw is looking for her father, a man she has never met. Crime boss Frank Thringley might be able to help her, but Susan doesn’t get time to ask Frank any questions before he is turned to dust by the prick of a silver hatpin in the hands of the outrageously attractive Merlin.
Merlin is a young left-handed bookseller (one of the fighting ones), who with the right-handed booksellers (the intellectual ones), are an extended family of magical beings who police the mythic and legendary Old World when it intrudes on the modern world, in addition to running several bookshops.
Susan’s search for her father begins with her mother’s possibly misremembered or misspelt surnames, a reading room ticket, and a silver cigarette case engraved with something that might be a coat of arms.
Merlin has a quest of his own, to find the Old World entity who used ordinary criminals to kill his mother. As he and his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, tread in the path of a botched or covered-up police investigation from years past, they find this quest strangely overlaps with Susan’s. Who or what was her father? Susan, Merlin, and Vivien must find out, as the Old World erupts dangerously into the New.
I bought this book with Christmas money and its been sitting on my shelf since. This Easter has provided me with much needed reading time.
I don’t often read fantasy as it is a genre, I struggle with, but I found the blurb of this so intriguing, that I knew it was something that I would enjoy.
I have not experienced Garth Nix’s writing before and coming into the book I realised it was a work that required all attention and focus to be able to make sense of what was happening. This book did take me a little longer than normal to read but I think it made the experience more enjoyable because I had taken to time to absorb all it offered.
The plot premise was something new. It was so intricately designed and structured that it was impossible for me to draw conclusions or similarities to other books. I found the plot wholly unique and as a reader, the book definitely has a strong pull and pushes away reality.
This book is very detailed and combines two separate stories that follow the same path. There are many characters to come across and many moments of unknown information and curiosity. Because of the way my brain processed the book, I won’t talk too much about the premise of the plot in case I give something away.
I did enjoy reading this book. I did read it in segments but even then, I was finding excuses to sneak off and read it. It has a compelling nature around it and there is so much mystery in the book that it was hard to tear myself away.
Susan, Merlin, & Vivian are the characters I learnt most about over the course of reading the book and even then, I realise there is much more to learn about them. I usually find a character who enters the ‘mythical’ world to be incredibly boring and predictable. Nix made it original. He made it compelling, addictive, and unique.
There is a more descriptive structure to this book than other fantasy books out there. As an example – I couldn’t read Tolkien. I found his never-ending descriptions irritating and I actually gave up reading before I’d even left the Shire. Nix is more flexible with his descriptions and lacks that ‘waffling’ aspect.
This book covers a lot of ground, but it is written in a way that ensures the reader will never get lost. For every action there is an explanation. This is as much for Susan’s benefit as the readers, but I appreciated it, nonetheless.
The ending, though nicely wrapped, does suggest a new beginning or new avenue for a potential follow up book. I hope there is another book, because I would read it.
I did notice that my ability to process information was a little taxed while reading this, there is just so much that the book has to offer that I really had to close myself off from the real world to have an understanding of what was happening.
It also took me a little while to place when the plot was taking place. I like knowing when a book is set, so that did throw me off a little and even when I learnt of the plots time zone, I did struggle to view it in that light.
The book was long. 26 chapters, 1 epilogue, 393 pages. Usually a book under 400 pages doesn’t faze me but there was something about this book that made it seem longer than it was. Like when you watch a clock, and it doesn’t seem to move. It definitely helped that I read this book in sections, and that there was so much lingering curiosity to what I was reading. If I had attempted to read the book in one sitting, I’m not sure my response to it would have been the same.
I give this book: 🌟🌟🌟🌟