‘Lamplighter’ is the sequel to the first book in the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy. ‘Foundling’, the first book, introduced the reader to the highly original world of the Half-Continent, where there reigns a continual battle for supremacy between monsters and humans. Monsters are seen as an evil scourge and to be killed as quickly as possible. Those who are experts in killing have the monster’s blood they killed tattooed into their skin.
Our hero is called Rossamund, an unfortunate name, which he has to carry along with a lonely and difficult life as an apprentice lamplighter. Lamplighters have an important job, going out each day to light the roads so they are safe to travel. In this second book the Half-Continent is becoming even more dangerous, with monster attacks on the rise. Far flung and remote villages are in severe danger of being overrun.
‘Lamplighter’ begins two months into Rossamund’s apprenticeship with the lamplighters of Winstermill. He develops a friendship with a “Wit”, a girl who has mind talents to hurt monsters, but her powers are barely controlled. Threnody has come from an upper class background and is haughty and arrogant. However, she wants to go against her parent’s wishes and become a lamplighter. Threnody and Rossamund become reluctant allies against the monsters. While at Winstermill, Rossamund becomes aware that there is something sinister going on. He investigates this but is not believed and for punishment Rossamund and Threnody are banished to a distant “Cothouse”. This is a savage and frightening place on the very fringes of civilisation. Monsters are visible from time to time from the top of the Cothouse’s tower.
Disaster strikes one day when Threnody and Rossamund are out on routine duties. They return to the Cothouse to find that there is a full-scale monster attack going on and all of their lighter friends are horribly massacred.
During all of this second part of the series, Rossamund is becoming aware that he is rather different to those around him. Unlike others, he finds he can’t hate the monsters, in fact he feels sympathy for their difficult lives. His enemies see this in him also and he is called in to stand trial for allegedly collaborating with monsters. Was he really partly responsible for the massacre at the Cothouse? As Rossamund tries to defend himself some shocking revelations are made.
D.M. Cornish has created a unique world in the Half-Continent. It is stunning in scope and rich in imagination. It has its own language, somewhat Dickensian, and its own science and technology. The illustrations are vivid brilliant black and white drawings and bear witness to the skills of the author who completed a Bachelor of Design, majoring in Illustration. The book also has extensive glossaries, maps and charts at the end of the book, called an “Explicarium”.
This sequel is one of the rare ones that is even better than the first book. The characterisations have greater depth, and moral issues – especially the ones about what it is to be truly human – are examined in a complex way. This book is highly recommended to those that love a good fantasy book, but it is far more than simply a well plotted narrative. Although it is directed to the young adult, adult readers will find many pleasures in it’. – Jane Crew