THE ERSTWHILE by B. Catling

THE ERSTWHILE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A magical-realist tale of people, and other sorts of beings, struggling to transform themselves and the world.

One child is birthed by a ghost. Another’s birth is attended by strange Bakelite machines. Meanwhile, in a retirement home, two maybe-angels are awakening and giving an ex–theology professor a new lease on life. In a rank bog, a diseased fanatic searches for more of the beings known as the Erstwhile—and for a new purpose. In the city, representatives of industry search for a way to exploit a forest that destroys men’s minds. And at the center of it all, that forest, the Vorrh, sits like a dark blot on the landscape—dangerous to enter and full of secrets. In this sequel to The Vorrh (2015), some characters return, like the cyclops Ishmael, who’s now had a second eye implanted, but the mystery of the Erstwhile takes center stage. These creatures, “not fallen angels but lost ones,” seem to have a mission, but their purpose remains hidden from humans. In this dark, rich world, much is hidden, much is obscure. This book is more straightforward than the first volume. Characters have clearer motivations that move the plot forward more strongly. But this is still a world in which image matters more than character or anything else.

Fans of The Vorrh will enjoy journeying deeper into the dark heart of its world, but many fantasy fans will still find this book slow and murky.

Pub Date: March 7th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-101-97272-4
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Vintage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2017




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