The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he carries to his grave.
When 'Mortlock' arrived in the post I really wasn't quite sure what to expect. The only thing I knew about it was that the book had been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2011. You can view the rest of the shortlist here. I didn't have any preconceived notions or judgements about it which makes it nice when you pick up a new book
Josie is a knife-thrower in a circus, accompanying The Great Cardamom, who is more like an honorary uncle to her. She's always believed that she was an only child until she discovers her orphan brother Alfie, who has been working as an undertaker's assistant. The two children are thrown together in a search to discover the secret of their father and a strange flower called the Amarant which holds the ultimate power over life and death.
The start of the book had an intriguing introduction, depicting the title character Mortlock, along with his two companions Chrimes and Corvis, searching for the flower. At this stage it's unclear exactly what's so special about the flower or why they want it but this sequence illustrates the different characters of the adventurers and sets up the events of the next part of the book.
From here on in, the book blends together fantasy and reality creating a real sense of mystery, adventure and excitement. If you like your books with a generous dollop of gruesomeness then this is probably one for you. There are some particularly gory scenes and some really creepy characters throughout. Be warned that you probably won't want to read this one before bedtime but for those that do like a healthy amount of horror then this will definitely give you the frights. I thought that 'Mortlock' was a thrilling read with an exciting and surprising conclusion. It certainly kept me on my toes as I was reading it and was a real page-turner.
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this for review.