cover image Rotherweird


Andrew Caldecott, illus. by Sasha Laika. Quercus/Fletcher, $26.99 (480p) ISBN 978-1-63506-153-6

In this intricate, leisurely trilogy opener, Caldecott weaves an evocative picture of a small British town characterized by its reclusive nature, both haunted by and disconnected from its mysterious past. When the hapless Jonah Oblong is hired to teach modern (“1800 and after is the rule”) history to the students of Rotherweird, he discovers a community filled with eccentrics and geniuses, bound by ancient rules, the most important of which is “we’re forbidden to study old history”—especially the town’s own origins. Meanwhile, the enigmatic Sir Veronal Slickstone moves into Rotherweird’s long-empty manor, setting into motion a series of bizarre events that seem poised to uncover secrets left buried for centuries. With a sizable cast pursuing numerous plot threads over the course of months, this tale starts slowly, only picking up speed once the layers of magic-riddled history are gradually pulled back. While the focus might be on the oddball inhabitants, Rotherweird is the true heart and soul of the narrative, a character in its own right. Dense language and overly clever riddles complicate a complex story that will nevertheless reward the patient reader. Agent: Ed Wilson, Johnson & Alcock (U.K.). (June)