Rotherweird is the debut novel by Andrew Caldecott. A hybrid of historical and science fiction, I was unsure what to expect. My experience of debut’s particularly in the SF or fantasy genre has until now been a mixed bag, leaning mostly towards the poorly written and poorly plotted. Rotherweird however is something else entirely, Andrew Caldecott weaves together a mystical tale of suspense and adventure, mixed in with the macabre and my favourite period in history; Tudor England.
The opening lines see Mary Queen of Scots, desperate after the loss of a baby who may never have even been a baby at all. It appears at first that this story will focus mainly on this time period, but it is merely setting the scene. The reader is almost immediately whisked away to modern times and the mysterious town of Rotherweird.
Standing alone amidst the rest of the UK, Rotherweird is a town where everyone is smart, particularly when it comes to science, nobody really leaves and it is rare that outsiders come in, other than to teach, trade or perform at one of Rotherweird’s many fairs. Enter four new players; The Actress set to play Lady Slickstone, the mysterious and sinister Sir Virgil Slickstone, their faux son and finally the new history teacher Mr Jonah Oblong.
It becomes immediately obvious to the newcomers that things in Rotherweird Are more than just a little… weird (pun fully intended). For Mr Oblong especially, despite being the history teacher, he is neither allowed to know or to teach any of Rotherweird’s history, nor any general history before the Cusp of the 19th century. Because Rotherweird has a secret that it doesn’t want anyone to find out for fear that the bad things that happened which forced Elizabeth II to cast it adrift, might happen again.
The characters in this book, are incredibly well written, from Orelia Roc, part owner of the antique shop Baubles and Relics to Hayman Salt the resident outsider and horticulturists. All of them have motives but the imminent threat of destruction brings them all together.
Andrew Caldecott’s ability to create and shape worlds and the characters in them, draws the reader into an intense narrative of plot and subtext that keeps you guessing until the very end. You don’t even know you have suspicions until the answer is revealed.
Enchanting and beautifully written, I can only hope that there is going to be a Rotherweird II and SOON!