What would you do if all the imaginary horrors of the world weren’t imaginary at all? Such is the world of Edgar Brim. As a young boy, his father told him many tales of the bizarre and the macabre, leading to Edgar’s heighten sense of fear and frequent night terrors. Later when he is sent to a gloomy boarding school in Scotland run by the stern and mysterious Mr. Thorne, life for Edgar turns even darker as he becomes the subject of bullying and ridicule. It is only in the finding of a journal written by his novelist father which helps Edgar develop the courage to fight both his bullies and his fears.
When I picked up the book and read the premise of a gothic horror novel set during the reign of Queen Victoria and featuring Bram Stoker, I knew this was my type of novel. The book reads much like a classic Victorian novel of mystery, full on dark intrigue, gloomy atmosphere and cryptic clues and the main character of Edgar makes for an interesting foil to the action. Edgar both grows up physically and emotionally in the novel, while keeping a certain distance of personality that makes we wonder what mysteries we will find out about him as the series goes on. Setting the book during the Victorian period adds a whole set of socially acceptable and expected behaviours that feel odd to our modern sensibilites and are really pronounced with Edgar’s friend, Lucy.
I really liked the literary references to the great Victorian writers of the time and can see their influence in the story and in the character of Edgar. The build up in story is slow as it lays out a number of plot threads and takes time introducing Edgar and the world he inhabits but once the action begins the it moves rapidly and ties up a number of ends while leaving some mysteries for further in the series.