The Rotherweird books are something I’ve been meaning to write about since the first proof arrived on my doormat a couple of years ago. Now, finally, with the third and final book being released, it’s time to share just how much I’ve enjoyed them. These books are large and absorbing. They’re a time-consuming, sometimes convoluted read, but the payoff is well worth the effort.
Here are five reasons why you should read them.
1. They’re like Neal Stephenson novels.
Many authors try to be like Neal Stephenson, but very few can manage it. Rotherweird comes pretty damn close. It’s a huge sprawling series that crosses time and into another dimension. The trilogy has a huge cast, with divided loyalties and secret agendas. The Rotherweird books are novels of ideas. There are ciphers and hidden messages, there is manipulation of time, and hints of magic. The books are deep and immersive.
2. The Setting.
Rotherweird, the place, is like a pocket universe, not dissimilar in some ways to that in Dave Hutchinson’s Europe novels. Nestled in rural England, yet somehow cut off from it, Rotherweird feels like a traditional parochial English town. The sort of town that only exists in fiction, or the fevered imaginations of British isolationists. An academic town, with a school that produces cutting edge science, but also has an apothecaries guild. A town where the teaching of history is forbidden and regulations are written for everything (and I mean everything) with just one man in charge of ensuring those regulations are upheld. Rotherweird is an idiosyncratic place that you can’t help getting lost in.
Then there’s the “other place,” Lost Acre; the less said about which the better, because of spoilers. Except to say the entire novel is driven by events that happen across both places and the reason Rotherweird is like it is, is because of this mysterious realm that can only be accessed from certain points across the town.
3. The Characters.
The cast of the Rotherweird books is immense, and truth be told, slightly confusing. Yet over the course of the three books, you’ll fall in love with them all. There are dastardly villains, political vipers, and bumbling heroes. There are shape-changers and near-immortals. There are seers and those who can remember nothing. There are academics, inventors, PE teachers, and shopkeepers.
The characters of Rotherweird, like the town they live in, are riddled with idiosyncrasies but despite some of them bordering on being caricatures, they feel very real. By the end of the first book, we have the measure of many of them and most of them will have wormed their way into our affections no matter how peculiar their personalities may be.
4. The Sense of Wonder and Imagination.
These books are a riot of imagination. Taking a step back and looking at the books as a whole, it’s hard to imagine how author Andrew Caldecott conceived this huge endeavor. To have tied all his ideas together into a coherent, compelling, and thoughtful narrative is a massive accomplishment.
The Rotherweird trilogy is an inspired construction. There are so many ideas crammed into it. It’s astounding to read, wondering where the story will jink to next or what left field set piece will assail us next. Much like when reading Neal Stephenson’s books, time and again, I was blown away by how Caldecott constructed a narrative brimming with so many ideas.
5. The Pastoral Feel.
Britain is a green and pleasant land, or so it is said; a myth often perpetuated by elements of the UK’s political classes. Andrew Caldecott taps into this idea to great effect. This book invokes the idyll of the British provincial town and countryside, whilst at the same time conjuring nostalgia-tinged fondness for a 1950s that probably never existed.
There is something comforting about this stance, even though many of the novel’s players are monstrous. The trilogy does contain some political machinations. Followers of modern politics will recognize the tactics of invoking the idea of halcyon days, and the perpetuation of the idea that outsiders are the problem. This neatly sets up a juxtaposition. The curiously comforting nature of a simpler life, against the horror of prejudice and isolationism.
The Rotherweird trilogy is a sprawling absorbing saga that is breathtaking in conceit and accomplishment. Fans of deeply immersive fiction, such as that created by Neal Stephenson, will love losing themselves in this nightmarish vision of a parochial English town, where everybody has secrets.
If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other 5 Reasons to Read posts, here.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of the Rotherweird Trilogy, you can do so here, in the US and here, in the UK. (Affiliate Links.)
Disclosure: I received a copy of all the books in the Rotherweird Trilogy in order to write this review.