The Vorrh by B. Catling (book review)

May 29, 2015 | By | Reply More

The Vorrh is a vast forest filled with mysteries and surrounded by people who know not to venture too far within its boundaries. One man is different, he aims to traverse the forest with his bow and arrows, returning to a land he no longer remembers. The forest protects itself but others seek to kill the bowman and prevent the secrets of the Vorrh from being revealed. Yet secrets abound outside the forest, too, in the minds of men and women, in the basements of old houses, in the cells of prisons and in the hearts of masked lovers on carnival night. All are linked to the Vorrh and none can escape its influence. To explore the Vorrh and live to tell the tale is the greatest quest of all.


I started this book with little expectation of what its pages might contain. A brief blurb talking about a bowman, robots, a cyclops and this enormous forest suggested it might be worth a further look but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I found.

‘The Vorrh’ is B. Catling’s debut novel and it’s a surreal journey through a forest. It’s also a journey through the minds of men, women and the not-so-human beings that live in and around that forest. Then again, it could be a tale of love and longing, of power struggles and war, of hope and duty and the need to belong. Whatever it may be, it’s certainly a book that has left me thinking about it.

Catling’s writing is very vivid, evoking sights, sounds and smells of the places to which he takes us. I’ve certainly been seeing flashes of the forest in my mind since I finished the book and keep revisiting the strange locations he described. His characters are distinctive, yet often vague, in that we see only fragments of lives that hint at deeper things going on. His plot meanders, then jumps, then turns you around and takes you back to a place you thought you’d left behind 50 pages ago. It is confusing and I was utterly bewildered at times, yet still found that I want to keep reading.

It’s probably one of the hardest books I’ve reviewed because it’s a book with so many different strands and they don’t all tie up neatly. ‘The Vorrh’ finishes when it feels like we’re only half-way through the story. I can’t say that it was a particularly satisfying ending, but at the same time it sort of felt fitting. It matched with the idea that stories are only parts of other stories and that everything links together and you could spend eternity in the forest and emerge with no clearer idea of what you found there.

This is not, as you may have gathered, a book for those of you that like a single plot with a satisfying and clear-cut ending. This is a book for those of you that are willing to take a risk and let your imagination run wild. So if you’re game, take your own journey into ‘The Vorrh’ and see if you can emerge unchanged where so many have failed.

Vinca Russell

May 2015

(pub: Vintage Book/Random House, 2014. 500 page hardback. Price: £15.95 (US), $18.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-101-87378-6)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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