I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rotherweird is a book that’s been on my radar for a while. The cover is incredibly eye-catching. The premise is unique and intriguing, and the story proved to be just that. I can honestly say that I’ve never encountered a setting quite like it. By turns charming and almost sinister, Rotherweird hides deep secrets and a dark past that is utterly unknown to any of its residents. When outsiders, one in the form of a bumbling history teacher and the other in the guise of a wealthy lord who has just purchased the rundown Manor, elbow their ways into Rotherweird and start asking questions, the town faces unpredictable threats and must be protected by some of the area’s most unusual citizens.
“Imagine a new world where Man could start again. What would we preserve? What would we cut down? Would we be more careful with our discoveries?”
Rotherweird might be rooted in our world, but it undoubtedly stands alone. It’s a land apart, and its occupants are both proud of and confused by their home, and its oddities. They are quite literally outside of the law of England, allowed to maintain their independence as long as they adhere to certain rules set into place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The oddest thing about Rotherweird is that the study of world history before 1800, and all of their own history, is strictly forbidden. The reasoning behind this brutally enforced rule is the central axis around which the story’s many mysteries orbit. To say that they’re suspicious of outsiders would be an understatement; such invaders could inadvertently dig up the past and endanger Rotherweird’s independence. There is also a mistrust and dislike that divides the townsfolk from the countrysiders, which further hinders any pursuit into the area’s history.
“An old rage burned –so many startling gifts, so much knowledge gleaned along the way, and yet what a mess Mankind had made of everything.”
One of my favorite things about this book was the incredibly uniqueness of Rotherweird. Though its citizens might be ignorant of its history, they have immense pride in their home. Their events, their celebrations and festivals, are unlike any others held outside of Rotherweird. Their school is second to none, and churns out insanely bright graduates who often remain in Rotherweird and use their intellect towards the betterment of their home. The civic pride shines fiercely all throughout the story. I also enjoyed the odd, unexplained magic at the core of Rotherweird, as well as the history readers were privy to throughout the novel. Both the magic and the history felt very classical, but twisted in unexpected ways.
“He liked it when fact out-coloured fiction.”
I’m glad that I finally got around to reading Rotherweird, but while I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would. I found it to be oddly, sometimes confusingly fantastical. The story was indeed interesting and multifaceted and far from predictable, but I was unable to connect with story, setting, or characters on any deep, emotional level. The storytelling often felt plodding to me, and I would sometimes completely miss important details because they were buried in the bloated prose, and I’d have to backtrack to figure out what I’d overlooked. All of these complaints are incredibly subjective, and I’m sure plenty of readers have and will in the future adore everything about Rotherweird. Despite the issues I had with the book, the core story itself was intriguing enough for me to add its sequel to my reading list.
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