She is awake…
Norfolk, 1643. With civil war tearing England apart, reluctant soldier Thomas Treadwater is summoned home by his sister, who accuses a new servant of improper conduct with their widowed father. By the time Thomas returns home, his father is insensible, felled by a stroke, and their new servant is in prison, facing charges of witchcraft.
Thomas prides himself on being a rational, modern man, but as he unravels the mystery of what has happened, he uncovers not a tale of superstition but something dark and ancient, linked to a shipwreck years before.
Something has awoken, and now it will not rest.
Richly researched, incredibly atmospheric, and deliciously unsettling, The Leviathan is set in England during a time of political turbulence and religious zealotry. It is a tale of family and loyalty, superstition and sacrifice, but most of all it is a spellbinding story of impossible things.
What started out as an eerie witch investigation turned out to be quite the haunting mystery with a gothic atmosphere that was so palpable you’ll feel it clinging to your skin.
This was my first encounter with Rosie Andrews. I knew nothing about her or her writing so I went in completely blind. Thankfully Andrews guides you through the events beautifully. Her writing style is slow, and detailed and has the kind of intensity and payoff reminiscent of that of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The majority of the tale takes place in 1643 with a few chapters set in 1703 that only add to the intrigue of the mysterious murders and happenings in Norfolk 1643. The entire narrative is told in first person from the perspective of Thomas Treadwater, a man returning home after fighting in the civil war to discover things are not as he left them.
Thomas finds question after question with each answer only leading to more questions as he struggles to discern what occurred on his family’s farm while he was away and whether the woman accused of witchcraft is the sinister orchestrator of these horrific event events. But nothing is as it seems…
One thing I will say is that despite the odd predictable plot point here and there, the arrival to those moments is so enjoyable and sometimes shocking that I never minded. If I could describe to you how full and tangible the atmosphere of this story felt as I read it I would attempt to do this by saying it felt the way intense humidity does on the body. Like an invisible pressure all over you that only eases with a cold shower. I don’t know how else to describe it, but to compare it to the sub-tropical climate of south-east Queensland with sprinklings of dread.
The further into the story one goes the more the story evolves from a simply gothic mystery to something a little more reminiscent of Lovecraftian fiction. There are moments in particular that reminded me of H. P. Lovecraft’s prose in his Cthulhu Mythos such as one of Andrews’ character’s retelling of strange and terrible events that occurred on a shipwreck. This was a fun and eerie incorporation that added a new exciting element to an already tense story.
As someone who enjoys older gothic stories, this really came through for me and I would recommend anyone who enjoys the odd Victorian gothic, or just gothic mysteries in general to give this a go. It really is the most beguiling debut and perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock and The Binding.
Rating – 4/5 stars
Author – Rosie Andrews
Pages – 308 pages
Publisher – Raven books
ISBN – 9781526637338
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