Rotherweird is weird indeed. Usually, I love weird, but this one just didn’t quite connect with me. It has that literary fantasy vibe, making it the kind of book that would make literati reviewers declare it above its genre roots, or worthy despite its fantastical trappings, and I hate that.
Rotherweird is a town out of time and step, an odd island of governmental independence in the modern UK, exempt from taxes and oversight from its nominal rulers. Founded as a home for exceptional children in the reign of Queen Mary, mad and superstitious, it is now, centuries later, lost in its own ignorance of its history, because reasons.
Arriving at the school is the awkward Jonah Oblong, would-be poet and reluctant teacher, but there are so many other characters thrown at us — it is a cast of thousands, it seems at times — that this interesting premise is mostly ignored. Instead, we focus on the smooth and evil Sir Venables, the new lord of the manor who will not take no for an answer, and various citizenry of differing levels of likability and honourableness and interest. Eventually there is an Other Place, a magical realm of bizarre creatures, but by that point in this way-too-long book, I wasn’t really interested anymore.
Oh, the book is well-written, contains some excellent turns of phrase, and ratchets up the tension pretty effectively throughout. But I just got bored pretty early on — it reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, in that regard, another acclaimed literary fantasy I found interminable and overrated — and even when the book reached something of a cliffhangery crescendo, I found I had no interest in assaying Book 2.
This is happening more and more, and I love it. I used to be a straight-up completist, compelled to continue with whatever series or trilogy I had begun unless I really hated the first installment. Now, my threshhold is love — if I really loved the first book, I will continue with the series. Otherwise, nope. Next!
If nothing else, this new ruthlessness is certainly helping to clear out this TBR pile of mine at a rapid rate, since I bought the first sequel to this one already, and came very close to buying Book 3 the other day. Happily, I stopped myself, and now I can cross them all off my list forever.
So, goodbye, Rotherweird! I’d say good luck, but it turns out don’t care what happens to you at all.
TBR DAY 135: Rotherweird (Rotherweird #1) by Andrew Caldecott
GENRE: Fantasy, Literary Fantasy, Alternate History
TIME ON THE TBR: 1 year.
PURCHASED FROM: Hill of Content, Melbourne.