The weird and word-drunk gothic fantasy “Mordew” by Alex Pheby

Weird fantasy bildungsroman in the Mervyn Peake/China Mieville mode. The Foundling with Powers narrative is given a fresh take against the decaying city filled with wonders. The plot is full of subversive trope remixes, but the real star of the huge novel is the grotesque invention that Pheby employs. It’s full of word-drunk passages and haunting images—catnip to me because I read for texture more than I do plot. There are talking dogs, golems made of mud, glass roads, and firebirds. For being a book about a special boy, it still manages to address issues of gender. Dickensian London seems to be a template, but there is more than a nod to lands ravaged by colonialism. The most interesting character (besides the special boy) is a nonwhite female. TOR is republishing this next year, along with other books in a proposed trilogy.

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