Elegantly written and packed with left-field English wit, I worried at first about the avalanche of characters and ‘You Don’t Have to be Mad to Work Here But It Helps’ tone. Additionally, there are no POC characters and everyone exists in a bit of England called Rotherweird that has been cut off from the rest of the country, which is populated by ‘outsiders’ and viewed with suspicion.
However, when political machinations gather pace for a snivelling election in which people who do the actual work (‘countrysiders’) are blamed for doing a good job, the entitled whining of the town-dwelling classes takes on a familiar tone, complete with mentions of the effectiveness or otherwise of ‘poisoned mail’, and by implication the loathsome tabloid of a similar name.
Revealingly, an ancient evil is resurfacing, bent on establishing a new world order, and here too there are strong contemporary resonances. This evil, in the person of the titular Thomas Wynter and his henchman Calx Bole (everyone has a wacky name), absorbs the skills and characters of others via a singularity called the mixing point, which utilises energies from Rotherweird and its other-dimensional counterpart, Lost Acre.
The half-human/half-beast creations that emerge give the book a Moreau-esque pathos and it gathers pace towards the end, but it suffers slightly if you haven’t read the first book in the series. The novel nods towards science fiction with references to dark matter and planetary impacts, but the feel and scope combine to create a piece of satisfying modern folklore.