Review Blog

Jan 19 2011

Mortlock by Jon Mayhew

cover image

Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN 978 14088 0392 9
Suggested reading age 13. Whilst much of this tale is set in Victorian England, the narrative commences in Abyssinia in 1820 with an exploring party led by Sebastian Mortlock searching for a magical plant called the Amarant. His companions on this expedition are Thurlough Corvis and Edwin Chrimes and after locating the plant but finding that it has evil powers, the trio swear a blood pact to never return or reveal its location.
Little more is explained and the story proper opens with teenaged Josie Chrimes performing as a knife thrower alongside her guardian 'The Great Cardomom'. Josie is happy living amongst the entertainment community yet this is all destroyed when her guardian and benefactor is visited and killed by sinister women acting for the Lord Corvis.
It is revealed that Cardomom is actually Edwin Chrimes and Mortlock has mysteriously disappeared with the Amarant which Corvis is prepared to recover at any cost. The Amarant gives the power to revive the dead and control or destroy people. The holder of this plant may rule the world.
Josie is forced to flee, pursued by the women who morph into horrific giant crows which skewer people and dismember them with their beaks. In making her escape, Josie meets a twin brother of whom she was unaware and the two seek to survive and destroy the Amarant whilst untangling the mystery of their family origin.
Pitched at young teenagers, the story will appeal to those who enjoy Gothic horror and the chapters of this sparse narrative are extremely short which will appeal to those who find extended description challenging. The theme of death permeates every aspect of this story, from the desire to achieve immortality to the involvement of undertakers, grisly murders, frequent appearances by zombies or walking dead and the use of graveyards as settings.
Younger readers will not be overly critical of implausible events or the simplistic narrative style and are likely be intrigued to discover the truth of the twins' parentage and the unpleasant motives behind the quest to hold the Amarant.
Rob Welsh, Xavier College

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