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Lamplighter
D.M. Cornish
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 736 pages

Lamplighter
D.M. Cornish
D.M. Cornish was born in 1972. He is a fantasy author and illustrator from Adelaide, South Australia. He spent most of his childhood drawing, as well as most of his teenage and adult years as well. And by age eleven he had made his first book, called "Attack from Mars." He studied illustration at the University of South Australia, where he began to compile a series of notebooks, beginning with #1 in 1993 and, over the next ten years, he filled 23 journals with his pictures, definitions, ideas and histories of his world, the Half-Continent.

D.M. Cornish Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Foundling

Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

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Lamplighter is book two of the Monster Blood Tattoo series by D.M. Cornish. I loved the first book and this second work easily lived up to the promise of the first. This book starts where the first finished, with Rossamund apprenticing to be a Lamplighter, the men who are responsible for keeping the Emperor's highways safe.

In addition to detailing some of the inner working so the empire, the book also introduces some new factions to the mix including the falseman who are able to detect Falsehoods and the Calendars who are a feminist group that seem to exist parallel to the regular forces of the empire.

The book details Rossamund's training and his first posting. On the way, he befriends the first female lamplighter and a shell-shocked former lamplighter named Numps. We are also reintroduced to characters from the first book including Europe, the monster hunter and Sebastipol the Leer and falseman.

While many of the intrigues of the fortress are opaque to Rossamund until near the end, they will be very transparent to the reader. This is not the book for those who are looking for a story of subtle political machinations. The bad guys are clearly bad and can easily be identified as such. Likewise, most of the good guys are also clearly presented with little moral ambiguity. Even the surprise revelation at the end of the book was easy to see by anyone who was paying attention during the first book.

However, given the nature of the book, this is not a flaw. The book is told from the point of view of Rossamund and there is never a slip into the view of an omniscient narrator. The obvious plots do not make Rossamund and the others any less fun and engaging characters. It's very easy to root for the heroes and boo the villains.

Even with this lack of subtlety, Lamplighter is not a simple book. The plots are still complex and convoluted and though you can guess and some of their motivation, the overall goals are less clear. There is a great deal going on and a lot of story necessary to tell it. Like the first book, Cornish is  introducing us to the language and jargon of the world. While most of the words are clear from the context, it still makes for a very information dense book. It is not an easy read and with 600 pages to get through (not counting the Explicarium) it is not a quick one either. It feels more like a couple of books in one cover.

Cornish also does us the favour of not requiring us to have read the first book before reading this one. Should you do so, your experience will be richer, but the book won't suffer should you not. If you do decide to experience Cornish's world, make sure that you set aside some time to do it. This is a book that is worth savouring.

Copyright © 2009 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.


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