📚The Sinister Booksellers of Bath (Book 2) by Garth Nix

There is often trouble of a mythical sort in Bath. The booksellers who police the Old World keep a careful watch there, particularly on the entity who inhabits the ancient hot spring. Yet this time it is not from Sulis Minerva that trouble starts. It comes from the discovery of a sorcerous map, leading left-handed bookseller Merlin into great danger. A desperate rescue is attempted by his sister the right-handed bookseller Vivien and their friend, art student Susan Arkshaw, who is still struggling to deal with her own recently discovered magical heritage.

The map takes the trio to a place separated from this world, maintained by deadly sorcery performed by an Ancient Sovereign and guarded by monstrous living statues of Purbeck marble. But this is only the beginning, as the booksellers investigate centuries of disappearances and deaths and try to unravel the secrets of the murderous Lady of Stone, a serial killer of awesome powers.

If they do not stop her, she will soon kill again. And this time, her target is not an ordinary mortal.

329pg | 22 Chapters 1 Epilogue | 4hr Read

On this Coronation weekend it is with some predictability that I have to deal with a colossus headache. I was planning to read the Sunday away anyhow but I could have done without the throbbing pain. Not even a nap or an entire packet of custard creams helped! But I digress.

I have been waiting for this sequel since I finished the first book. I knew this would be a book I’d read in May. I was eager for it and I wasn’t disappointed.

In the first book, even with all that had happened Susan wanted to remain normal. This is a large part of the narrative for this book and as a reader you really get to understand the dilemma Susan is going through between wanting to be normal and yearning for what her inheritance brings.

I think this book had a lot of competition in terms of living up to the expectations left from book 1. Going into this read I was sceptical about what I was going to find and how the story would develop. The world building by Nix is detailed, yet incredibly wide with the ability to encompass a lot of unexplored avenues.

The concept of this book was interesting. It took me to a place I wasn’t expecting and still managed to draw me in emotionally in places where I shouldn’t have felt them.

To my relief, Merlin was still as quirky as ever and his ‘voice of reason’ sister Vivian was still as smart as she was good at ignoring rules. It felt like there were more booksellers thrust into this book but the plot needed them to balance out.

I found Susan to be less intense in some ways and though I’ve mentioned reader insight into the war within her, I did also feel irritated by her continued voicing of wanting to live life as normal as possible. I know it adds an interesting layer to her character but towards the end of the book it did feel a little like an overkill.

The breaks have cooled between Susan and Merlin and honestly, this is the one point of the book that made little sense to me because I couldn’t see what benefit – if any – it gave to the plot.

As for the ‘ancient entity’ involved here. I was both captivated and curious. The woven strands of plot created an unusual style of story. Less of a ‘guessing how it will end’ and more of a ‘what will the next step be’. There were elements to guessing how all the cogs intersected into the main plot which was amusing to unravel.

The plot felt more contained. There was one of the adrenaline pumping that I felt while reading book 1. Upon reflection I feel like this was a gateway book into something more. Needed for the characters and the series but not overwhelming to be memorable down the line.

I give this book: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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