cover image The Erstwhile

The Erstwhile

B. Catling. Vintage, $16.95 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-1-101-97272-4

The middle volume in Catling’s alternate history trilogy (after 2015’s The Vorrh) successfully expands on the interesting premise of its predecessor: somewhere in Africa, there exists an enigmatic forest known as the Vorrh, “which was ancient before Adam was a supposed twinkle in God’s eye.” The Vorrh is inhabited by legendary creatures with goals opposed to those of humankind, setting up the potential for conflict with far-reaching consequences. In the 1920s, a priest learns of such a threat when a colleague alerts him to the Erstwhile, “deformed and degenerate remnants of the celestial beings” who had been created to protect the Tree of Knowledge. Upon their failure, they were forgotten by their creator, but they are now beginning to emerge from the Vorrh. Meanwhile, a cyclops named Ishmael, who had left the Vorrh to dwell among humans, comes across reports of the Erstwhile while researching his own mysterious origins, and he sets out on a path that leads him back to the forest. This imaginative and original work of fantasy will leave readers hungry for the series conclusion. (Mar.)