This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in The Broken Bullhorn.
At the time I read this, I expected to go straight on to the second book. I have yet to do so. That seems to happen a lot. Too many books, I guess, or too many choices.
The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar © 2010, Angry Robot 2010 mass market paperback, fantasy-steampunk – 1st in trilogy
Once in a while, you just have to have a book. This is one of those. I saw it and I’d wanted it for a while, but a review of the second one in the series finally convinced me to buy the set. I’m not much of a fan of steam punk, but these looked too good to pass up. I’ll start off with the cover blurb:
“When his beloved is killed in a terrorist atrocity committed by the sinister Bookman, young poet Orphan becomes enmeshed in a web of secrets and lies. His quest to uncover the truth takes him from the hidden catacombs of a London on the brink of revolution, through pirate-infested seas, to the mysterious island that may hold the secret to the origin, not only of the shadowy Bookman, but of Orphan himself…
I must say, for once the blurb is true to the book. The first thing that stuck me when I started reading this was the sense of place Tidhar gives the London location, and sets it up with the obvious steampunk elements: Victorian times but with steam-driven cars, dirigibles and so on. The British government has been taken over by a race of lizard-like beings that came from a mysterious island (hint) in the Pacific Ocean, or it’s the Atlantic, it’s never clear. It’s possible these creatures actually came from off planet. Whichever, they have an iron grip on the government and military. The only person or thing they seem to fear, and this fear is shared by much of the populace, is a mysterious being called The Bookman.
When Orphan’s best friend Gilgamesh is killed, and then his beloved fiancé is killed in a terrorist bombing, Orphan vows to find the truth behind the event and that leads him, inevitably, to a hunt for The Bookman.
I found the pace rapid enough to keep me turning pages, and the characters are very well constructed. I felt as if I really got to know Orphan and several other main characters quite well. Tidhar is a skilled writer telling a solidly constructed tale. The book finishes with an ending, though not a cliffhanger, so it can be read as a stand-alone. The second book in the trilogy is Camera Obscura.