Book review

Monster Blood Tattoo: Lamplighter by D M Cornish (2008)

Part two of the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy

More thrilling and fantastical adventures with the unlikely hero Rossamund Bookchild.

We've met Rossamund before so we know there isn't much to tell about him. He's orphaned, small and insignificant, and bears his girl's name with as much dignity as he can manage. Now he's been sent from the Foundlingery to work in the Emperor's Service as a prentice lamplighter along the great Wormway. Lamplighters are a stalwart, brave and proud body of men who strive to keep the roads open and safely lit for travellers, but monster attacks are on the rise and every far-flung village and town is calling for help:

Almost each day reports come to me and I am applied to for aid. Yesterday I learned that the whole second lantern-watch of Ashenstall was slain without quarter, not six nights gone, and also lamps pushed over on the Patrishalt stretch. Today already I have been informed of the taking of a family in the broad of day by the walls of Makepeace.

So how can a puny prentice with only a half-length lantern stick match up to such a challenge? Well, our Rossamund is sensitive, and a bit of an independent thinker. That puts him on the outside of the crowd most of the time but the friends he chooses are good and true. There's Threnody for a start. She's haughty and awkward and only joined the lamplighters to spite her aristocratic mother. But Rossamund is the one boy she condescends to speak to, and there's a growing respect between them, even if their temperaments do grate.

Oh, puny, did I say? My mistake. Our Rossamund does seem to be capable of some astonishing feats of strength:

The gudgeon was on him in an instant, pressing him down, its whelming stench all about him, teeth snapping clack! clack! seeking to nip at exposed flesh: fingers, knees, cheeks. In white, blind terror Rossamund heaved the abominable creature off and shoved it - almost threw it though it was twice his size - across the tiny landing. Free of its imprisoning bulk, he sprang up the stairs he had just descended so painfully, pointlessly crying, 'Help! Help!'

Unsurprising then that he catches the eye of some significant adults, though I'm not sure they quite know what to make of him yet. Podious Whympre, Master-of-Clerks, wants Rossamund right out of the way. Europe, the Branden Rose, the Duchess-in-Waiting of Naimes, and premium monster hunter, wants him for her factotum.

What is to become of our diminutive lamplighter?

Brilliant, brilliant story! Haunting, mysterious characters. Frightening world, powerful enemies. Great friendships. Read this one. I'm sure you'll love it.

What can I read next?

This is Book Two. You have to read Book One first:

Do you know, I think this is one of the most blood-curdling books I've read. If you like to have your blood curdled, you could take a look at this excellent story by Chris Wooding which follows the progress of Thaniel Fox, wych-hunter:

Or you might enjoy this one by Justin Richards, set in Victorian England:

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

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