Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

Rotherweird

'Intricate and crisp, witty and solemn: a book with special and dangerous properties,' Hilary Mantel.'Baroque, Byzantine and beautiful - not to mention bold' M.R. Carey.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...

Title:Rotherweird
Author:
Rating:
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:480 pages

Rotherweird Reviews

  • Nigel

    I really enjoyed reading this book. It's not flawless for me but for the most part it was original and certainly different. Full review nearer publication date.

  • Melindam

    To enter, tourists must leave behind their 21st-century gadgets as readers should their literary prejudices or expectations.

    This is a town devoid of modern technology, but has a surprisingly high number of mastermind-children with affinity to sciences like maths, physics, astronomy.

    Learning about the town's history is outlawed and there are a number of other bizarre rules governing the general and day-to-day life of its

    To enter, tourists must leave behind their 21st-century gadgets as readers should their literary prejudices or expectations.

    This is a town devoid of modern technology, but has a surprisingly high number of mastermind-children with affinity to sciences like maths, physics, astronomy.

    Learning about the town's history is outlawed and there are a number of other bizarre rules governing the general and day-to-day life of its citizens. The why-s are buried in obscurity.

    And then there is a most unfathomable place in the valley of the river Rother and if you happen to find it and enter, you may not be the same again after your return. Yet it seems to hold the key to Rotherweird's secret origins and history.

    This book has been a delightful reading experience: it has an almost Dickensian streak of weirdness, which I found very appealing. It is a curious, but very intriguing kaleidoscope of historical fiction, fantasy, children's fiction and even Biblical elements.

    Reading it was like getting a lovely ice-cream sundae with all my favourite ingredients + the paper umbrella on top: I dived in and did not come up until finished the last spoonful and licked the dish clean. :)

    Some elements of the story reminded me of other, well-liked books, but this is a unique story, the author, Andrew Caldecott, has his own voice / style which is special to Rotherweird. The writing is simple yet potent- sometimes it felt like reading a dramatic play rather than a novel.

    There are 2 alternating timelines and weirdly enough the present tense is used for the historical timeline and the past tense for the contemporary which creates a powerful and seductive atmosphere. The show-rather-than-tell method is applied to perfection & it hooks you right from the start.

    What is also peculiar in a positive sense that there is no single protagonist as such, but a diversity of likeable / weird / hateful / compelling characters, all with their own secret agenda and parts to play, which gives a strong dynamism to plot.

    Recommended: to everyone who likes books by Neil Gaiman, Ben Aaronovitch, Susannah Clarke.

    Netgalley Arc, received from Publisher, Quercus Books, in exchange for an honest review.

  • Mike

    A highly unusual book, a kind of portal fantasy/historical fantasy/contemporary urban fantasy blend. It reminds me most of Robert Holdstock or Charles de Lint, though less ominous in tone than either.

    There are a great many characters, and according to the author's afterword, there were originally a lot more. I had a cold when I read it, so my brain was fuzzy, and I sometimes had to think hard to remember who a character was when they were mentioned after being offstage for a while. I felt that

    A highly unusual book, a kind of portal fantasy/historical fantasy/contemporary urban fantasy blend. It reminds me most of Robert Holdstock or Charles de Lint, though less ominous in tone than either.

    There are a great many characters, and according to the author's afterword, there were originally a lot more. I had a cold when I read it, so my brain was fuzzy, and I sometimes had to think hard to remember who a character was when they were mentioned after being offstage for a while. I felt that it could have been achieved with a tighter cast; in particular, I didn't really see why the villain found it necessary to supply himself with not only a fake wife, but a fake son, since the son never seemed to contribute to his plans in any way. I could see why the author involved him (he played a minor, but important, role in the plot), but I couldn't figure out why the villain did so. The "son" was also oddly subservient to the villain, given the rest of his character.

    One thing I disliked was that strong, fulfilling relationships between men and women were conspicuous by their absence. As well as the fake marriage, there are a couple of marriages which have obviously been contracted for political reasons, and in which the wife is a cypher, never developed as a character. Another marriage is threatened by the husband's drinking. I can only remember one relationship (the publican and his wife) where both partners are developed and effective, and where they don't seem to be in conflict, but that's because they don't seem to be in anything; they take action separately, but don't really have a scene together where they interact. The outsider who is the best candidate for "central character" (he's not really a protagonist, or less so than some of the other characters, but we spend a lot of time with him)

    .

    The point of view is, I suppose, omniscient, though it mostly follows one character per scene (fooling me for a while into thinking it was third person limited), occasionally switching heads mid-scene. This is necessary in part because there's no one protagonist in the complicated plot.

    The setting is a town separated by statute from England at large, to preserve a terrible secret. It's an odd mixture; it has a long tradition of scientific inquiry (something best done while

    isolated, in general), and the school - a secondary school, not a university - produces cutting-edge research, yet there's little evidence of modern technology; the scientific prowess of some of the characters is an idea more than it is a developed element of the plot. The overall feel of the town is a lot closer to its Elizabethan origins than it is to the present day, which directly contradicts the strong imperative to forget about the past and forge towards the future. I felt that this aspect hadn't been fully thought through.

    It's sounding as if I didn't enjoy it, but I did. The mysterious, and never fully explained, portals to the other world, the Elizabethan backstory, the various mysteries, and the joint maneuverings of the large cast kept me involved and interested. I did think it was, at one and the same time, over-elaborate and yet not completely worked out, but it shows a lot of promise, and I will be watching for the sequel.

  • Lucy Banks

    What a title for a book. And, what a premise! An independent town where outsiders are forbidden to enter, which houses a number of strange, sinister secrets... what could be better?

    I immediately hoped for Neil Gaiman / Terry Pratchett. However, what I discovered was something wildly inventive, mostly captivating, but at times rather baffling. It's f

    What a title for a book. And, what a premise! An independent town where outsiders are forbidden to enter, which houses a number of strange, sinister secrets... what could be better?

    I immediately hoped for Neil Gaiman / Terry Pratchett. However, what I discovered was something wildly inventive, mostly captivating, but at times rather baffling. It's fair to say that Caldecott is his own writer, and not simply following in the footsteps of others, and there's

    wrong with that.

    Firstly, things I very much enjoyed about this book, of which there were a lot. I loved the set-up; the characterisation of Rotherweird itself, it had the ideal blend of strangeness and sensibility, and was very well realised. The characters themselves were idiosyncratic, intriguing and had wonderfully bizarre names - which matched the tone of the book to perfection.

    I also enjoyed the fantastical elements - the blending of creatures, the mysterious realm of Lost Acre, the characters with strange, mystical powers - it all worked very well indeed.

    For me, the main criticism I'd level at this book is that it almost felt too ambitious. There was an over-abundance of characters, so many that it was impossible to follow all of them, and sometimes I felt lost at sea. Some also felt a little superfluous - for example, Slickstone's son, who didn't really seem to have much of a part to play. Likewise, the random actress wife - what was her purpose, exactly?

    If Rotherweird had been pared back slightly, simplified and strengthened, it would have been a 5* review from me, without question. As it was, for the instances where I was scratching my head and wondering what the heck was going on, it lost a star. However, it's very well worth reading - for originality and inventiveness if nothing else!

  • Paromjit

    Rotherweird is the first in a beautifully woven fantasy trilogy by Andrew Caldecott, infused with the feel of the Victorian and the Gothic. Much of the novel is given to world building and incorporates detailed descriptions of the anachronistic town, Rotherweird, and its rather eccentric inhabitants. It begins in 1558, where the troubled queen wants rid of 10 gifted children. Instead of following orders, Sir Robert Oxenbridge, saves their lives by covertly putting them under the care and educati

    Rotherweird is the first in a beautifully woven fantasy trilogy by Andrew Caldecott, infused with the feel of the Victorian and the Gothic. Much of the novel is given to world building and incorporates detailed descriptions of the anachronistic town, Rotherweird, and its rather eccentric inhabitants. It begins in 1558, where the troubled queen wants rid of 10 gifted children. Instead of following orders, Sir Robert Oxenbridge, saves their lives by covertly putting them under the care and education of Sir Henry Grassal at Rotherweird Manor. With the addition of two talented local peasant children, they are educated and taught to make the best of their particular gifts. In the present, Rotherweird is a town granted independence through statute, provided no-one delves into its history before the 19th century where it appears horrific events took place. However, secrets have a habit of tumbling out.

    Two newcomers, Jonah Oblong, the new history teacher, and billionaire Sir Veronal Slipstone arrive in Rotherweird. Slipstone is renovating Rotherweird Manor against local regulations, has a fake actress wife, and fake son, Rodney. He is supported by the venal and ambitious mayor, Sidney Snorkel, who does all that Slipstone asks of him. Oblong replaces Flask, the previous History teacher, a man who mysteriously disappeared and transparently researching and teaching forbidden history. It is not long before it becomes clear that Slipstone has dastardly plans to take over Rotherweird and is willing to throw his money around to ensure he does not fail. Slipstone is in the slow process of retrieving dark memories from his past which are instrumental in equipping him to be a unrivalled source of power. Standing in his way are a loose collection of odd individuals that include Hayman Salt, Orelia Roc, Vixen Valourhand, Bill Ferdy, and Ferenson. It transpires that Rotherweird had faced shattering horrors in the past, and once again it must fight. It was said that in the past, the green man and the hammer saved the town, can this happen again?

    There is an intricately plotted novel with a narrative that beguiles and charms. The author has outdone himself in creating a world and characters that effortlessly held my interest, although it did take a while to get going. There is humour and comic touches throughout the novel that is quintessentially British. The real strength of the story lies in the wide range of quirky and bizarre characters and how they develop. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the trilogy. A brilliant and highly recommended read. Thanks to Quercus for an ARC.

  • Paul

    The Spanish philosopher George Santayana once wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” No one in Rotherweird appears to have ever heard that turn of phrase. In the dim and distant past, the town’s founding fathers decided it made sense to bury their collective heads in the sand. A declaration was made; delving into what had gone before was strictly forbidden. Their reasoning? If no one knows the town’s history then it can’t cause any problems, can it? Turns out the

    The Spanish philosopher George Santayana once wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” No one in Rotherweird appears to have ever heard that turn of phrase. In the dim and distant past, the town’s founding fathers decided it made sense to bury their collective heads in the sand. A declaration was made; delving into what had gone before was strictly forbidden. Their reasoning? If no one knows the town’s history then it can’t cause any problems, can it? Turns out the answer to that question is a firm no. The history of England’s most insular community steadfastly refuses to remain hidden. Secrets will be revealed and the truth will out. It’s not just the town’s curious attitude towards the past that is raising eyebrows. Why is the Manor House now in the hands of an outsider, Sir Veronal Slickstone, and why is he so obsessed with everything and everyone? The new history teacher, Jonah Oblong, is determined to uncover the answer to all these questions. Even after he discovers his predecessor disappeared in “unexplained circumstances”. All he has to go on are a series of progressively more cryptic clues

    At first glance, Rotherweird sounds like a splendid place to live. There is the unrestrained excitement of The Great Equinox Race. The latest Rotherweird fashions are available for purchase at Ragamuffin down on Grove Lane. If you want, you can pop down to The Journeyman’s Gist and imbibe a pint or two of Feisty Peculiar with Bill Ferdy. The town sounds like quite the rural idyll, I’d move there in a moment. Of course, looks can be deceiving.

    There are some genuinely eccentric characters to discover. You’ll not be surprised to learn that the town’s inhabitants are all just a bit odd. This is an ensemble piece, the lives of each person meanders in and out of the main narrative like the flow of the river Rother. The little details in Andrew Caldecott’s characterisation elevate Rotherweird to the realms of something quite special. For example, the names of the characters are a constant source of delight – Sidney Snorkel, Godfrey Fanguin, Rhombus* Smith, Oriela Roc, Vixen Valourhand and Hayman Salt to name but a few.

    There is a marvellously anachronistic quality to Rotherweird. The town exists in its own little bubble and feels like it exists outside the normal constraints of time as well. The author does nothing to dissuade the reader from coming to that conclusion. There is a nostalgic tone to the writing which made me smile on numerous occasions. Characters like Gregorious Jones have an almost archaic patois. Makes sense I suppose, he is like the living embodiment of chivalric attitude. Every female he meets becomes a damsel in distress. Of course, he is always wrong in that assumption. The good ladies of Rotherweird are a formidable bunch who are more than capable of looking after themselves.

    I’m a sucker for slightly off kilter stories like this. Part fantasy, part mystery, Rotherweird is delightfully strange and it revels in that strangeness. It feels like it is a natural successor to the “Mouse” novels by Leonard Wibberly. In fact, part of me hopes that Rotherweird and the Duchy of Grand Fenwick share the same literary universe. What could be better than a collection of unconventional characters embroiled in a labyrinthine plot? If he was still around I’m sure Peter Sellers would have had a field day transferring Caldecott’s novel to the screen. He’d probably have played three or four characters himself.

    In conclusion, there can be little doubt that Rotherweird is indeed Rotherweird and the good news is that it is also Rotherwonderful.

    *If I ever have a son, I pledge to you now that I shall name him Rhombus.

  • Silvia Kay

    Rotherweird has to be, hands down, the best fantasy novel I have read this year. This is subject to change, of course, but right now I am feeling pretty confident, for a number of reasons.

    The story opens up with an eerie scene in which Queen Mary orders the execution of ten child prodigies whose gifts she deems unholy. Sir Robert Oxenbridge does what he believes to be the right thing: he saves the children by entrusting them and their eductation to the care of his retired friend who is living ou

    Rotherweird has to be, hands down, the best fantasy novel I have read this year. This is subject to change, of course, but right now I am feeling pretty confident, for a number of reasons.

    The story opens up with an eerie scene in which Queen Mary orders the execution of ten child prodigies whose gifts she deems unholy. Sir Robert Oxenbridge does what he believes to be the right thing: he saves the children by entrusting them and their eductation to the care of his retired friend who is living out the rest of his days at Rotherweird Manor. But, as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions...

    Fast forward to the modern days: a small strip of land surrounding Rotherweird Manor answers to no governmental entity, having obtained independence from England centuries ago. Jonah Oblong, ‘an outsider’, obtains a teaching post at Rotherweird School. He is a historian, but he is to teach only modern history, as discussing anything that happened before 1800 would be against the strictly enforced History Regulations. But, being a historian by trade, Oblong can’t leave the past in peace, unsettled as he is by his predecessor’s mysterious dismissal and subsequent disappearance.

    This book is one of the rare books that have joined the ranks of my ‘paper soulmates’. Every single aspect of it resonates with the very essence of my being, which is no mean feat. Chances are that you will feel the same if any of this sounds good:

    - Beautiful, descriptive writing

    - Puns, witticisms, and playful, highly creative use of language

    - Gothic elements, such as manor houses straight from Victorian sensation novels, but with a modern twist. And hidden passages. A LOT of them.

    - Elizabethan era, and, more specifically, neo-Elizabethan reimaginings of it (the whole of Rotherweird town can be described as neo-Elizabethan)

    - Some seriously creepy stuff, such as experiments mixing humans with animals

    - Portals to different worlds/dimensions

    - Quaint small towns with narrow winding streets and quirky traditions (such as the annual Equinox Race during which people compete in boat-racing while wearing outlandish costumes)

    - Lots of three-dimensional characters, all of which have a role to play in the story and are so well-drawn that you somehow never mix them up

    - Twisted villains you really enjoy hating

    - Odd names galore (Vixen Valourhand has to be my favourite)

    - A fair amount of comic relief pitted against the overall darkness of the story

    I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

    Here's my Youtube review:

  • Akahayla

    I just... was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of excessive descriptions. That was the only thing I could figure out about why I didn't like this book.

    I simply didn't enjoy it. I know MANY others did, so if it interests you then definitely give it a try but it just wasn't for me.

    I couldn't connect with the characters either and I found the entire experience very cumbersome.

    DNF @ 16%

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