The sinister booksellers of Bath by Garth Nix

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I am a fan of The left-handed booksellers of London and was thrilled to be given the sequel, starring Susan Arkshaw an art student with a magical heritage, the left-handed bookseller Merlin and his right-handed sister, Vivien. When they uncover a sorcerous map, Merlin vanishes, and Susan and Vivien must attempt to rescue him, battling statues that come to life and a serial killer, the Lady of Stone, who is determined to murder unsuspecting people.

This time Nix has moved from London and set his story in Bath, where Sulis Minerva rules the ancient hot spring. Readers who have enjoyed stories set in the Regency period in Bath will readily recognise the ancient buildings and parks. The mythical place that Merlin finds himself marooned in, is fascinating too, with its living statues made of Portland Stone, maze and old manor. Against this vivid setting, Susan, who had decided that she wanted to pursue her art, finds that she must leave her aspirations for a normal life and use her knowledge of art and magical powers to locate Merlin. There is also the mystery of all the disappearances of so many people over the centuries and the question of what the Lady of Stone intends for the inhabitants of Bath.

Susan and Merlin’s romance slows down in The Sinister Booksellers of Bath as Susan is afraid that she will be dragged into the supernatural life of her father who is due to rise in the New Year. She also fears that the booksellers may pull her into dangerous alternative worlds like the one which has captured Merlin.  However their attraction for each other doesn’t fade, and Susan knows that she must rescue Merlin, regardless of the consequences for her aims to be normal. And the action and danger that she, Merlin and Vivien face will keep the reader rivetted to the page.

Garth Nix’s world building and characterisation are so good that readers are certain to want to read anything else that he has written, in particular The Old Kingdom series starting with Sabriel. Fans may also like books by Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones and Jaclyn Moriarty. A teaching resource is available.

Themes: Fantasy, Bath, Magic, Monsters, Booksellers and bookselling.

Pat Pledger