Monster Blood Tattoo 2: Lamplighter by D M Cornish

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Monster Blood Tattoo 2: Lamplighter by D M Cornish

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Tremendously well-realised follow-up to an equally well-realised fantasy epic. Themes of conflict and empire develop the blurring of good and evil in the first book. Worldbuilding is a big, big feature and so it will appeal most to the die-hard fans of fantasy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 599 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Corgi
ISBN: 0552556254

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Rossamund Bookchild has finally arrived at Winstermill to take up his apprenticeship as a lamplighter of the Half Continent. He's a bit of a Johnny-come-lately and so ends up rather at the bottom of the pile. He's missed the making friends stage. And so he struggles on until Threnody arrives, even later than he was. Threnody is the first ever female lamplighter apprentice, and so she doesn't fit in either and at last Rossamund has a friend - even it is a friend he doesn't quite trust. But the bogles, shrewds and grinnlings on the Empire's highways aren't the only things Rossamund and Threnody have to worry about. There's something evil deep inside Winstermill itself...

Oh, this is a clever, clever follow up. In the first book of this trilogy, Cornish introduced a winning character on a familiar quest, but blurred the usual black and white boundary between good and evil. Here he develops that theme further, talking not so much about personal discrimination, but about imperial expansion and state propaganda. In Rossamund's world, humans are trained to view the monsters as other, as worthless - and it's this brainwashing that allows them to ignore the rather ugly truth about their society. It's the age-old terrorist or freedom fighter argument, and clearly it has great topical resonance. Nobody says manifest destiny but it's what I was thinking. These themes never get in the way of the story though; they are part of it. And that's another good thing.

Any review of Lamplighter really must make it clear that while it has sophisticated thematic depth, the book's bread and butter is worldbuilding. The Half Continent is a fully realised world of breathtaking complexity and this is why the narrative stretches for a testing six hundred pages with more than a hundred more of explicarium - that's glossary to the non-worldbuilding hard of hearing like me. It has more in common with Lord of the Rings than it does with Harry Potter but in terms of construction and backstory, both are good comparisons. I, personally, am not big on worldbuilding. I'm one of those people who think a bag is a bag, not a salumanticum. If you don't like worldbuilding, you won't like Lamplighter. If you do like it though - and undoubtedly many, many children love it; it appeals to their magpie minds - then you'll fall in love with this series. Even I am utterly in awe of this perfectly realised world. Don't read Lamplighter first though - it spends a lot of time referring back to events in the first book and you'll become hopelessly lost.

For the fan of the kind of fantasy that involves thoughtfully constructed worlds and any other young readers undaunted by books that weigh more than housebricks, Lamplighter comes highly recommended. Despite its length it has a smart and tidy pace with plenty of action and a tremendously engaging central character. It also raises a great number of very contemporary issues. Super stuff.

My thanks to the nice people at David Fickling for sending the book.

Younger children might enjoy Garth Nix's Seventh Tower series. Older children should just jump straight into Tolkien.

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Buy Monster Blood Tattoo 2: Lamplighter by D M Cornish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Monster Blood Tattoo 2: Lamplighter by D M Cornish at


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