Today marks the publication of a very special novel Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott – a book about a very unique town, separated from the rest of England since Elizabethan times, and it’s ensemble of inhabitants.
Part fantasty, part alt-history, part mystery it’s an immersive, twisty and textured, hugely enjoyable, rather bonkers novel; one that relishes in it’s own quirks and utterly charms you with them. We are very, very happy to have published it.
Before you enter Rotherweird though, Andrew would like to introduce you to a town unlike any others.
Welcome to Rotherweird …
The eponymous walled town of the title sits on an island in an English valley, where the story unfolds mainly in the here and now. But this is the oddity: the valley has been independent of the rest of England since 1572, a privilege granted by Elizabeth I on one condition designed to hide the reason – nobody may study her history. Political independence, jealously guarded, has generated a distinct culture, from transport to architecture and arcane rituals, and despite unusual scientific brilliance, it is a town of the book and manual calculation: no telephones, computers or internet.
Through the centre runs the Golden Mean, straight north to south, with a bridge over the River Rother at either end. Towers, squat and fat, or tall and pencil thin, jostle for light and view. The dominant materials are oak, plaster and slate; the dominant art form is carving. Grotesques decorate every bridge, tower, and house. The Town Hall is the only building made of dressed stone. A portcullis guards each bridge. Outsiders are unwelcome and rarely seen.
In the prosperous north western quarter an aerial street, known as Aether’s Way, winds between them, accessible by twisting stairs with outlandish names. Here the Guilds hawk their wares. Save for the Golden Mean, the cobbled streets are often mean and serpentine. Loops and dead ends abound.
There are no cars, only rickshaws propelled by a silent vacuum technology. Political power is entrusted to the Mayor. Responsibility for matters of ritual and the regulation of carvings lies with the Herald, an ancient hereditary office.
Yet darker secrets lurk here too. Elizabeth I did not sever this place without reason. Rotherweird Manor is walled off with access to nobody. Escutcheon Place holds the archivoire, where the valley’s records are held. Only the herald may enter this inner sanctum, but even he is not fully apprised of its hidden compartments. The church tower, unbeknown to the inhabitants, holds frescoes going back to Saxon times with disturbing, cryptic themes.
Rotherweird School is more conventional with quads and laid out gardens, but its solitary historian is permitted only to teach the history of the wider world after 1800 and of the valley itself, which he or she should not know anyway, never.
On death all photographs, letters and memorabilia are destroyed by the town’s scrutineer – so absolute is the prohibition on history. Rotherweird must live in her present.
Praise for Rotherweird
‘A history-tragic-comedy all rolled into one, Rotherweird is intricate and crisp, witty and solemn: a book not unlike other books, but with special and dangerous properties. Line by line, silent and adroit, it opens a series of trap-doors in the reader’s imagination’ – Hilary Mantel, two-time Man Booker prize winner
‘Baroque, Byzantine and beautiful – not to mention bold. An enthralling puzzle picture of a book’ – M R Carey, author of the bestselling The Girl With All The Gifts
‘Compelling … the love child of Gormenghast without the rancour, and Hogwarts without the rightful heir’ – The Guardian
‘One of the most anticipated debuts of the year’ – SFX