Rotherweird (Rotherweird #1) by Andrew Caldecott

Posted On 22 June 2017

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rotherRotherweird is a very unusual book about a strange town that appears to be almost trapped in time, full of quintessential English characters living in what on the face of it appears to be an idyllic country setting.  Of course, appearances can be deceptive and behind the chocolate box cover facade of Rotherweird lies a rather sinister mystery.  This is like a strange mash up of a number of genres including fantasy, historical and mystery which for me worked like a charm.

Before I picked up Rotherweird I had very little idea of what to expect but I was intrigued by the comparisons that were floating around, especially to Strange and Norrell and whilst I will say upfront that the story here is completely different I can completely understand where those remarks have come from.  It’s to do with the feel of the book, the descriptions and world building and the way the author just provokes a feel of timelessness.

First off, the place itself.  Rotherweird is a complete anomaly.  Hundreds of years ago and by special decree of the Queen the place was made independent and it’s inhabitants have since that time led a secluded life with virtually no congress with the outside world. As you can imagine this has resulted in a number of quirky characters and strange traditions that are positively eccentric. The town itself sounds beautiful with intriguing architecture and old stone buildings, a large old fashioned school and a beautiful if somewhat neglected manor house.  Brigadoon is a fictional Scottish village that only appears for one day out of every hundred years – Rotherweird is a strange fictional village that feels like it only has one outside visitor every hundred years.  Outsiders are not welcome here and those that are invited are usually as a result of deliberation and careful thought.

Secondly, the people live a sleepy existence, apart from the fact that there seems to be an inordinate number of incredibly intelligent people in the village and their creativity, research and invention is sent forth into the wider world in many different forms.  And yet this is a village with no need for modern contraptions – in fact the place seems to revel in it’s own lack of reliance on such things and this really helps to increase the strange feel.

Of course there’s the history – and I would tell you more but that is of course against the rules.  What happens in Rotherweird stays in Rotherweird.  Well, that is, nobody discusses history, there are no records available and how or why Rotherweird found itself independent from the rest of the country is something of a mystery.  Now, while this history of Rotherweird is not shared with the inhabitants it is imparted to the readers by the use of two timelines.  You may be wondering why Rotherweird was cut off from the rest of England.   Basically, it boils down to fear of 10 rather gifted children who at the time seemed to be unnaturally gifted.  The first instinct of those in power was to execute the children but thanks to the actions of one character the children were rescued and secreted away from the world instead and to all intents and purposes things have ambled pleasantly onwards since that time.

On top of this, the book is something of a portal novel.  The town has two well hidden portal points that only a couple of people are aware of that lead to a very strange place indeed.  A rather creepy place that seems to ooze with threat and spark with magic.

As the story begins, two new people are about to join the inhabitants of Rotherweird and whilst they’re not particularly the catalyst for what takes place, because there is already a strange and brooding atmosphere, they certainly help to push things forward.

In terms of criticisms.  Nothing that greatly bothered me in particular but I would say that this has something of a meandering style, the author introduces a lot of characters and it feels like we dip in and out of their lives quite sporadically.  This in turn makes the characters feel a little lacking in depth.  I didn’t mind this particularly as I felt like the characters were almost supposed to come across a little like cliches from a typical countryside village with the busybody, the eccentric, the old pub landlord who likes to gossip, the stiff upper lipped head teacher, etc.  The book also has it’s own pace – it isn’t going to be rushed.  It’s a book that makes you read it and pay attention. So, quite a bit of world building and a leisurely pace – if these don’t particularly appeal to you then take note.

A strange fantasy, a quirky village, some considerably amusing chapters, particularly concerning the village boat race, odd characters and a magical mystery that started many many years ago and is about to be revisited.  I really enjoyed Rotherweird  and look forward to reading more.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



6 Responses to “Rotherweird (Rotherweird #1) by Andrew Caldecott”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    There are many elements here that make this story compelling to my tastes – not least the mystery surrounding this place, and the two different timelines in which the story is told: and if there is something of a meandering trend in the storytelling, it might very well be worth the extra effort, only to unravel the puzzle… 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I actually really enjoyed this read – but it is a slow read for some reason, you just have to take your time, nothing wrong with that of course. I loved the meandering and the quirky feel, the eccentric characters and the mystery of Rotherweird. I don’t think it will be to everyone’s tastes in terms of a dramatic plot and fast paced action but for me it almost had a feel of reading one of the classics so I just sank into the story and enjoyed it.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Fantastic review! Would you say the weirdness is the more…abstract, metaphysical kind of weird? I don’t know if I’m making sense lol…I’d love to give this one a try, since I like eccentric novels, but I’m also worried because I don’t always do well with “unusual” books if they are a certain style.

    • @lynnsbooks

      No, I think the weird is more about the mystery and eccentricity of the place – well, there is the portal idea and that does take you to a different world – but it’s more quirky and a bit creepy than anything else. It’s not the sort of unusual that was my recent VanderMeer read. This has more of a feeling of a Gaiman or Clarke novel. It puts me in mind a little of reading the classics, a slower read where the story slowly unwinds but the author takes time to build up the world. He did introduce quite a lot of characters but for me it gave the whole story almost a village sitcom type feel – with a difference.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    A great review, Lynn – I did wonder if the very quirky cover accurately reflected the content and it seems that it does. Many thanks for sharing this one…

    • @lynnsbooks

      It’s a quirky and eccentric read so the cover really does fit the bill.
      Lynn 😀

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