Gormenghast (Gormenghast Trilogy)

Gormenghast  - Quentin Crisp, Mervyn Peake Gormenghast is the middle part of a trilogy, and you should read Titus Groan first if you haven't already. It took me a long time to warm up to Titus Groan and I only got hooked about half-way through. At first I didn't like any of the characters, and Peake's style is forbidding at times. The pace is beyond leisurely--Peake takes his time. He was a visual artist and at times you can practically feel the detailed brush work in his word pictures that use a rich, sometimes abstruse vocabulary. It's the kind of narrative for which you have to have patience, but is rewarding because the imagery is so vivid. So, having been won over to the style and gained favorites among the characters, I expected to fall right into the sequel. I didn't find that to be the case, I think because the very characters I was most attached to weren't featured much in the first 100 pages--one of them didn't appear until well after that mark. Instead a whole new cast of characters appeared. Titus was barely over a year old at the end of the first book--at the start of this book he's now seven-years-old--a schoolboy--and we get to meet his professors. It was amusingly Hogwartesque, especially as we get in one chapter a game with boys flying in the air (sans magic) with the star player sporting black hair and a birthmark on his forehead. And the outcome of that game... well, it produced a rather macabre giggle. Then there was this moment with Titus and his sister Lady Fuchsia bonding... And well, by the time we get to the scene with Titus playing marbles with the elderly headmaster and Dr Prune, I was once again enthralled. In fact, I'd say I liked this book a tad more than the first volume. And I have to say, while I wouldn't precisely say I was fond of him, I increasingly found Steerpike one of the most fascinating villains in fantasy literature. He'd be admirable were he not so evil--brilliant, cunning, brave, athletic and ambitious--he makes Rowling's Lord Voldemort look like a crude amateur. And he and Titus were interesting foils for each other. So, now on to Titus Alone, the last part of the trilogy. It's about half of the size of the first two books, and I have it on good authority it's even weirder!