My Elves Are Different

Friday, 31 December 2010

'Lamplighter' by D. M. Cornish

The Foundling's Tale Book 2
2008, Omnibus Books, 717 pp, ISBN 978 1 86291 687 6

Sequel to Foundling.

Rossamünd is beginning his apprenticeship as a lamplighter, and it turns out to be a dangerous occupation. In D. M. Cornish's world, lamplighters tread the highways that thread the uncivilised outback of the Half-Continent.

These wilds are haunted by monsters, called "nickers" in Cornish's imaginative invented dialect, the implacable enemies of encroaching humankind. Although it seems that some monsters are friendly, and the bad ones may have legitimate grievances ...

Of course, the monsters are stand-ins for the indigenous people displaced by our world's colonial powers.*

Humans are slowly carving up the wilderness for farmland and an official policy of genocide against monsters is in place. Nevertheless, not all humans are unsympathetic to the monsters: our hero, Rossamünd, for example.

Rossamünd is slowly discovering some truths about himself, as well as about the sinister goings-on in the lamplighter organisation. Very slowly (for a lamplighter he doesn't seem to bright, haha).

It's pretty clear what's going on both with Rossamünd and an evident conspiracy around him, but it takes a long time for the boy to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and by then it seems that he's in checkmate.

It's great to revisit Cornish's world, which I maintain is very Australian in character, even if it is a world where Drs Frankenstein, Jekyll and Moreau were the ones who started the industrial revolution.

The book ends on something of a cliffhanger - Rossamünd's mysterious heritage is finally out in the open, after innumerable clues, but the real question is what happens next as he is saved by his patron, the wonderful monster-hunter Europe, and taken on as her factotum.

*Which makes me worry about the term 'nickers'.

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