The Sinister Booksellers of Bath by Garth Nix – ARC Review!

There is often trouble of a mythical sort in Bath. The booksellers who police the Old World keep a careful watch there, particularly on the entity who inhabits the ancient hot spring. Yet this time it is not from Sulis Minerva that trouble starts. It comes from the discovery of a sorcerous map, leading left-handed bookseller Merlin into great danger. A desperate rescue is attempted by his sister the right-handed bookseller Vivien and their friend, art student Susan Arkshaw, who is still struggling to deal with her own recently discovered magical heritage.

The map takes the trio to a place separated from this world, maintained by deadly sorcery performed by an ancient sovereign and guarded by monstrous living statues of Portland Stone. But this is only the beginning, as the booksellers investigate centuries of disappearances and deaths and try to unravel the secrets of the murderous Lady of Stone, a serial killer of awesome powers.

If they do not stop her, she will soon kill again. And this time, her target is not an ordinary mortal.

Did I expect this to focus a little more on new characters. Yes. Did the fact that it stuck with the main characters from the first book bother me. Not at all. The Sinister Booksellers of Bath may be set predominantly in a new city from book one, but it’s safe to say that a lot of the faces from the first book make an appearance, with the actual Bath based booksellers taking a backstage to our regular crew. Similarly to the first book that narrative shifts POV at irregular times throughout the chapters, ensuring us as readers are kept on our toes, as well as taking us where the excitement and adventure is happening at the time.

Susan, Merlin and Vivian still remain our main POV’s, and Susan really grew on me with this book. She has taken a sort of step back from the magical, wanting to live a normal life for as long as possible, but also deep down knowing that it isn’t possible. It’s rare to have someone be welcomed into a magical world not wanting to accept the invite, but I think this made her as a character wholly more realistic. She still feels drawn to the magic, still feels a sense of wonder at it, and as the Daughter of the Old Man of Coniston, she is linked to it in a way she will never be able to get out of, but she wants to spend as much of her life as possible as a regular person, something that she struggles with throughout the book. Merlin was his usual whimsical, gender-fluid and extroverted self, but I do feel like he grew a little more in this book, and Vivian was, well… Vivian, the slightly more responsible sibling who resorts more to research than running into danger head on.

As I said before, a lot of the characters we met in the first book make an appearance in this one, predominately the Booksellers from London and Inspector Greene, the police consultant tasked with working alongside the Booksellers, and alongside these Nix introduces us to a few new faces including the consultant from the Bath police, as well as the Booksellers stationed in the Bath store. These don’t play as large a roll as the title would suggest, but I did enjoy their characters and their interactions with the crew from the first book. Nix certainly knows how to create a quirky bunch of characters that, no matter how little page time they get, manage to stick with and make an impact on us a readers.

I enjoyed the setting for this book, Bath is a city I have visited numerous times an I enjoyed being able to pick up on some of the settings from the story, but Nix puts his usual magical and witty spin on the City so it’s not truly the same as the one we know and love. Through the story we get introduced to a whole bunch of new magic as well as new deity’s that call Bath and London home, but one thing I really loved was seeing more of the Right-Handed Booksellers skills. Book one spent a lot of time focusing on the Left-Handed, the battle ready Booksellers, so I enjoyed the deeper insight we got into the Right-Sided with this book, how they use their magic and the skills they have.

There’s plenty of action, and thanks to Nix’s writing style and his witty and speedy narration the story moves along at a fairly impressive pace. It does read as a little detatched from the action in parts, especially when we are being told what happened, instead of shown, and that would probably be my one little issue with the story as a whole. But in general the use of plot twists, as well as his use of switching between POV’s propels the story along and I found it easy to fly through the story chapters at a time.

If you enjoy quirky reads filled with even quirkier characters, magic and plenty of mayhem then this is for you. It’s not quite as intricate as Nix’s previous works, but it’s fun, witty and ultimately extremely British and I enjoyed every single moment.

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