Book review

Deathscent by Robin Jarvis (2001)

It's true, I think, that betrayal is much worse in a relationship where there has previously been friendship, respect and love. I think by the time you finish this book you will feel that you have been betrayed by the stranger, Brindle, but you will also have forgiven him.

Brindle arrives rather suddenly into this world - he crashes in his spacecraft and is rescued, barely alive, by the people of Malmes-Wutton. But here is a strange world. I think it will seem as unfamiliar to you as it does to Brindle. The people of Malmes-Wutton are Elizabethans, there is no doubt of that, but as you begin to wander round the place you will perceive that things are not as you would expect them to be. Malmes-Wutton has been entirely enclosed in a glass roof. And the old sow in the sty is a mechanical - made of wood! This brings a whole new meaning to that term 'rude mechanicals' which are such a feature of Shakespearian plays. Actually, the people are very skilled in maintaining their automata, which produce food for them, but they clearly did not develop the technology in the first place. Nor are they capable of maintaining their glass dome or designing their space ships on which they travel through the endless void to move from island to island.

Brindle is confused at first, but he works it out, and it is not a very comforting discovery. Actually, the truth is grim, and hard to bear, but I will leave that for you to find out when you read the book. Although Brindle is desperately injured, he makes a good recovery and befriends everyone as he tentatively explores the house and grounds of Malmes-Wutton. There is much to enjoy. Brindle's principal sense is his sense of smell and he is utterly bewitched by the sweetness of the roses:

"When I dip into this beguilement, the burden of my tormenting guilt is lifted. Oh, I could live my life in this garden and never once yearn for home or kin. Yea, even remembrance of my wife and children would not move me nor have any place in the chambers of my heart. Such is the virtue of these blooms. They seek out the child within and I ... I am happy."

Now, what is the burden of tormenting guilt which weighs so heavily on Brindle, Brindle who seems so gentle and courteous? It's a long story and the people of Malmes-Wutton, indeed the whole of Englandia, will know of it very soon. News of Brindle's sudden arrival in Malmes-Wutton reaches Queen Elizabeth herself and she sends for Brindle. But he is also required by the King of Spain, with whom Englandia is at war, and so the scene is set ...

I was totally glued to this book. Don't make the mistake of thinking it is just a comic book version of 'syence fyctione'. It contains not only shocking emotional betrayal and treachery, but also dreadful scenes of torture at the merciless hands of a Spanish mechanical torture master. Read it! I'm sure you'll love it!

What can I read next?

Robin Jarvis has written plenty of other series of books. You could look at his Tales from the Wyrd Museum Trilogy:

  • The Woven Path
  • The Raven's Knot
  • The Fatal Strand

You might like to look at William Nicholson's new Trilogy The Wind on Fire:

You might like to look at The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell:

You could look at Mark Robson's The Darkweaver Legacy series:

I have not reviewed any of Terry Pratchett's work on this website, but if you enjoyed Deathscent, I think you would like Terry Pratchett's Bromeliad Trilogy:

  • Truckers
  • Diggers
  • Wings

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Deathscent features in these lists: