Wisdom of Dead Men by Oisin McGann

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Wisdom of Dead Men by Oisin McGann

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Further adventures of the bloodthirsty Wildernsterns in a pacy and enjoyable alternative-world fantasy. Lots of ideas make this a doubly satisfying read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Corgi
ISBN: 0552558656

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Now Berto is Patriarch, the Wildernsterns are finding life somewhat changed. Berto doesn't approve of the Rules of Ascension - the bloody method by which family members rise to power by murdering their seniors - nor does he like tenant evictions or slavery. Things are looking altogether more peaceful, much to wife Daisy's relief. Outside the family mansion though, violence is in the air. A series of women have died in odd circumstances - the only explanation is spontaneous combustion. All of them were suspected witches and the police suspect foul play - perhaps even diabolic influence, the foulest play of all.

But what connection do these women have with the Wildernsterns? And will the family conform to Berto's new pacifist regime?

I rather enjoyed the first in this alternate-world series, Ancient Appetites. It had the Victorian feel much in vogue at the moment, plenty of pace, some blood and guts, and the mysterious engimals - intelligent machines and remnants of an otherwise-forgotten earlier civilisation. It was clear that the engimals were pivotal, but we weren't allowed to see quite how or why. Underlying the fantasy, we also got all sorts of ideas about social deprivation, gender equality, and science versus religion. It was a busy book, but a very satisfying one.

Happily, Wisdom of Dead Men continues in the same vein. The central character, Nate, remains as spoiled and impetuous as ever over the opening chapters, running off to carouse in Dublin and leaving Berto and Daisy open to an assassination attempt. It's clear that he must step up to the plate and start to take real responsibility soon - his is the picaresque arc and the most important one. The mystery of the engimals begins to unravel, and with it the identities of several villains.

It's all very tense, with red herrings aplenty, and a goodly dollop of humour. McGann slips in all sorts of historical figures, real and fictional - Darwin, Flashman, Sherlock Holmes - almost as asides, and it's fun trying to spot them. This episode ends satisfyingly but leaves you hungry for more. What more could a fan of this kind of fantasy ask?

My thanks to the nice people at Corgi for sending the book.

If they like a Victorian feel to their fantasies, they'll also love Philip Reeve's Larklight series. Mariah Mundi by G P Taylor is slightly more Gothic, but will also appeal. They could also look at The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley, which is simply delightful.

Buy Wisdom of Dead Men by Oisin McGann at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wisdom of Dead Men by Oisin McGann at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Wisdom of Dead Men by Oisin McGann at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Wisdom of Dead Men by Oisin McGann at Amazon.com.


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