Lamplighter (Monster Blood Tattoo, Book 2) by D.M. Cornish

Way back in May when I saw that the second book in the Monster Blood Tattoo series by D.M. Cornish, the sequel to Foundling, was being released I was excited.

But I will admit that I was a little nervous when I saw that Lamplighter was such a large tome (over 700 pages when you include appendices and maps). I was afraid that, like the Harry Potter series, it might become bloated and unnecessarily long (even as it retained much of its attraction).

I am happy to report that my worries were unfounded. Lamplighter turned out to be as captivating and entertaining as Foundling and has put the series on my favorites list. This epic fantasy series is truly one of those that you can get lost in; whose complexity and sense of wonder and mystery is so rare in the age of cookie cutter fantasy.

For an introduction to the series, here is a short video from Barnes and Noble:

The basic story takes up where the first book left off.  Rossamund is now a lamplighter and is training for this chosen profession.  But immediately danger strikes and his world is again turned upside down.  Not only is a female apprentice brought on but the attacks represent the unraveling of the world at Winstermill from one of tradition and athority to one of choas and maybe even treason.

For more of my take on the book, see below.

Like any long book, Lamplighter takes some time to get into. This is not a book you can dip into for short periods of time and enjoy.  IMO, you need to immerse yourself into the story in order to really enjoy it.

Also, if you try and read it as a sort of fictionalized history you will enjoy it less.  Many reviews have focused on the strange terms and almost obsessive details as distracting.  But they are not there for understanding so much as ambiance and mood.  Cornish has created this alternate world with an amazing depth and detail.  you are not meant to understand the language, calendar, and monetary system at first blush.  Rather you simply understand that one exists and it is a part of the world the inhabitants experience.

I certainly enjoy a tight plot and fast paced action as much as the next person, but I enjoyed this book because it drew me into this world and allowed me to travel and explore within it.  There is a sense of exctiement of exploring the unkown; a mystery at the heart of this strange place.

I enjoyed the way Rossamund continues to struggle with his emotions and beliefs as well as his loyalties and future.  His interactions with the female characters like Europe and Threnody push and pull him different directions and he has to try and make sense of and control his emotions.

I found that at each point where the book might begin to drag, Cornish was able to shift gears and ratchet up the tension or move the plot along to keep you plugged in.  The last 100 pages or so are particularly suspensful and leave you at the end wishing the third book was out already.

I can’t do better than to quote from a review from Voya:

Filled with marvelous storytelling, intricately developed characters, compelling pencil-sketch plates, and building tension as monster attacks increase and mysterious secrets emerge, readers root for the young hero as he comes to grips with the understanding that not all is as it seems, nor can all those he encounters be trusted to have good hearts.

Readers young and old who give this book the time and attention it deserves will be richly rewarded.

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Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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