Book review

Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling by D M Cornish (2007)

Part one of the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy

Rossamund. Difficult name for a poor foundling boy to grow up with, but if that's the one word that's scratched on cardboard and pinned to your swaddling when you're found as a babe in arms, that's the name you're given.

He resides within Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls. But he lives in a world full of marauding monsters, battles and mighty heroes, all inside the pages of his favourite books.

Actually, there is a monster outside the pages too. Gosling.

...sour-faced and lank-haired, Gosling stared back contemptuously. The blankness behind Gosling's eyes terrified Rossamund; his opponent was a heartless shell.

Well, I suppose there is always a Gosling for someone as gentle as Rossamund. He hopes, quite reasonably, that things will be better when he leaves the foundlingery to make a life for himself as a man. He expects to join the navy, coming from a Marine Society.

So he's pretty disappointed when he is recruited to become a lamplighter:

This was not the plan at all! Stuck on the same stretch of road day on day, night after night, lighting the lamps, dousing them again, lighting them again. No chance for prize-money. No chance for glory. Could it get worse?

Get worse? Let's take a look at Rossamund's world. There are certainly monsters of the Gosling type. Rivermaster Poundinch, for instance. And Rossamund learns how to deal with these monsters pretty quickly.

And then there are the real life monsters. The kind that are only turned by powerful potives and strong proofing:

It looked just like an enormous person, taller than ten tall men, except that its legs were too short, its arms too long, and its body altogether too thick, too hunched and too rectangular. It was an ettin - one of the biggest of the land monsters -

This is where Rossamund discovers that the urgent decisions that he makes in tricky situations are the ones that will settle the course of his life.

Brilliant story, with fantastical characters. Read it, I'm sure you'll love it. Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

Great news. This is the first book of a trilogy. I shall enjoy meeting Rossamund again and discovering the secret of his name in due course. That's if Freckle can be persuaded to tell us.

In the meantime, if you like to read stories where sensible people face up to monsters all by themselves, have a look at this trilogy by Kathrine Langrish:

Also the Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell:

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