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Monster Blood Tattoo Book Three: Factotum by D.M. Cornish (book review).

November 4, 2021 | By | Reply More

‘Factotum’ is the third part of the ‘Monster Blood Tattoo’ trilogy which began with ‘Foundling’ and continued with ‘Lamplighter’. I think it would be pointless to read ‘Factotum’ without first perusing the other two but that’s no hardship as they are both fabulous novels.

As with a foreign language, the best way is to totally immerse yourself in the world D.M. Cornish has created. I’ve read all three books in the past three weeks at about a hundred pages a day and enjoyed every moment.

In the ‘Monster Blood Tattoo’ stories, humans share the world with a huge variety of other creatures. Large ones are called bogles and small ones are nickers. All are deemed enemies to man and to speak well of any such creature is to risk condemnation as a sedorner, a monster lover, which usually carries the death sentence. There are walled towns and cities largely safe from monsters, but other areas have to be defended. The Lamplighters keep the roads safe and other forces, often mercenaries, battle monsters in the countryside.

‘Factotum’ begins where ‘Lamplighter’ ended with a revelation I won’t disclose after which our hero, Rossamünd Bookchild, departs from the service of the Lamplighters in company with Europe of Naimes, duchess-in-waiting, the Branden Rose, noble lady, monster hunter extraordinaire and a fulgar, surgically altered so she can generate and use electricity.

As a peer of the realm, she also has the right of QGU – quo gratia ex unicum (from whom grace is unique) – the power to nullify a court’s ruling for her own ends. Europe used her noble privilege to cancel the hearings at Lamplighter headquarters and whisk Rossamünd away from a trial which might have had him executed as a sedorner or worse.

Along for the ride are two old men he knew as a foundling, Fransitart and Craumpalin. They are bound for Europe’s home in the great city of Brandenbrass and, after a brief sea battle, arrive there safely. Then the trouble really begins.

Bad news travels fast and Europe’s extraordinary use of QGU to save a youth accused of sedorning has caused some consternation among the great powers in the city. Rossamünd begins his duties as her factotum in Cloche Arde, her magnificent mansion, but his spare time is free. Unwisely, as it turns out, he falls in with a gentleman about town named Rockwood Fyfe and ends up in a low gambling den, then descends to an even lower den where captured monsters are forced to fight savage dogs while men lay bets. Slyly, Rossamünd intervenes.

Not slyly enough and he’s spotted. The owner of the profitable and illegal arena is a man called Maupin, not someone you want to cross. When Europe goes monster hunting again, that’s her job, they find out just how vindictive Maupin can be.

At the heart of the book is Rossamünd’s dilemma. He is a sedorner. He’s encountered several so-called monsters who have helped him, and other everymen, as humans are known. On the other hand, Europe saved his life when he was in real trouble and he saved hers, too. They are bound by deep ties of mutual respect and affection, never spoken because that is not her way.

The nobles of the Empire are similar to our old English Aristocracy, stiff-upper-lipped and not given to display. Indeed, the whole society has a positively Dickensian/Victorian air with fat businessmen and nobles at the top of the heap and a great mass of struggling poor folks at the bottom.

‘Factotum’ is another great, heart-warming adventure with characters to love and loathe. It’s a coming of age story in which Rossamünd has to find his place in the world but while it’s about him the real star, in many ways, is Europe, or at least, their relationship. The conclusion, after 1800 pages, is well worth waiting for and would have brought a tear to my eye if I wasn’t so butch. Although this is marketed as a YA fantasy, any adult fan of the genre will enjoy it.

Someone, Orwell, I think, once described a book reviewer as ‘a man who likes everything, but not very much’ and sometimes I get the feeling I’m becoming that man. Then something exceptional comes along and you realise it’s not true. There are still some books that rekindle a genuine love of fiction.

With its complex, richly imagined world, its diverse and fabulous characters, its rollercoaster storyline, the ‘Monster Blood Tattoo’ trilogy is the best damn thing I’ve read in a long time, and highly recommended. It’s eleven or so years old now and available at various prices, including £2.99 for an eBook, but with the maps, illustrations and Explicarium at the back, a paper copy would be better.

Eamonn Murphy

November 2021

(pub: G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Young Readers, 2010. 688 page enlarged illustrated paperback. Price: $19.99 (US), $25.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-399-24640-1)

check out website: www.penguin.com/young readers, www.monsyerbloodtattoo.com and www.dmcornish.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy

About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy is a science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel reviewer who writes a bit too. See https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B01GEVVV5Q

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