THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz, £20, 528 pp)


by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz, £20, 528 pp)

Ravaged by competing interests, torn apart by war, what more could happen to the Midderlands? A people’s uprising followed by Terror à la French Revolution is what, and it’s worse than anything seen before.

In book three of this dazzlingly gruesome and gripping cycle, Joe Abercrombie does politics much as he handles everything else: with a clear-eyed understanding of the limits of human kindness and the banal depths of evil. Meanwhile, familiar characters struggle with new roles: one-eyed Likke’s a queen, the warrior Leo is crippled, while the feline Savine is an unlikely mother of twins. Will order be restored? Dream on. What terrible new form will disorder take is the question, and you’ll be guessing until the end.


by Jay Kristoff (Harper Voyager £16.99, 736 pp)

Here be a grimly funny, epically gore-spattered maelstrom of blood, guts and soul-searching, though it’s not clear who has a soul nor where it is.

Like Narnia only worse, in the Empire it’s always twilight and never morning, and vampires of every class prowl the dying lands. The Silver Saints, a holy order of demi-vampires, are humanity’s last hope, but Gabriel de Leon is pretty much the last Saint standing and he’s just been captured . . .

Intricately constructed and hellishly sensuous, the story impales us like a vampire’s tooth as a cast of tricky, brave and plain treacherous characters are torn between good and evil, and Gabriel’s quest to end the darkness brings us to a satisfyingly bloody conclusion.

THE BLACK LOCOMOTIVE by Rian Hughes (Picador £16.99, 400 pp)


by Rian Hughes (Picador £16.99, 400 pp)

What’s to be said about a book that blends boys’ own adventures with semiotics, complex sci-fi with steam engines, conspiracy theory with discourses on urban planning? Only that something so cleverly conceptual, ridiculously romantic and utterly unique must be the new Rian Hughes.

While working on London Underground’s Elizabeth line, engineers drill into an unimaginably huge, metal-lined cavern that’s been under the city since the Neolithic era.

An unassuming engineer and enigmatic artist try to tackle the anomaly, but when it emits a pulse that knocks out every electronic device in the capital, there’s a problem to be solved and a gorgeous, gleaming steam engine from a secret government cache is the answer.

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