‘Foundling’ is the first book in a trilogy by D.M. Cornish called ‘Monster Blood Tattoo’. It is set firmly in the fantasy genre and has enormous originality and inventiveness. Just to handle this book before you read it, is to feel its potential to take you into another and strange world. It is beautifully bound with old fashioned brown end-papers and comes with delicate pencil illustrations drawn by the author. The last third of the book is called an ‘Explicarium’, being a glossary of terms and explanations including appendices – there are marvellous maps and diagrams, even a calendar.
With anticipation, you begin the story of Rossamund, who lives in an orphanage, where he is teased by the other children because he has a girl’s name. When the hiring season comes for the children, he is chosen to be a lamplighter and sets off on a journey to his employment. Here begins a fantastical adventure, where he meets many strange creatures. One of these is Europe, a fulgar, a monster fighter whose arms are covered with tattoos made from the blood of the monsters he has killed.
‘Foundling’ is not an epic fantasy with grand battles and heroes. Rather, it is a strange journey set in the world of the Half Continent where people wear tricorne hats and carry flintlock pistols. Some are humans, some are monsters, and some are surgically altered creatures. Rossamund has to work out who is to be trusted, and who is to be feared. I felt it most closely resembled ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with its dreamlike quality, and monsters resembling the Jabberwocky.
The pace of the book is slow at first, but persistence is rewarded as it improves in the second half. I look forward with anticipation to the next instalments.