The Erstwhile by Brian Catling

The Erstwhile is the second book of The Vorrh Trilogy. The first book spent a good number of pages setting up the context for the trilogy, so by this book, we already have context on the world and its characters, and its events are easier to follow. Although a sequel, The Erstwhile doesn’t fall into the trap of being a sequel for the sake of a sequel. It is its own story, and it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger intended to make readers itch for continuity and closure. Well, suffice to say that I’m not the biggest fan of cliffhangers, so I appreciate when books, albeit sequels, can stand on their own.

With this book, I developed a newfound respect for some characters—and obtained confirmation of my feelings about some other characters. In particular, I enjoyed reading about Cyrena Lohr and Hector Schumann and how they handled the next phases of their lives. Plus, I like that other side to Ghertrude Tulp, and I feel like she will be back in The Cloven. I didn’t expect to ever be curious about her, but here we are waiting to learn more…

But there was something about the book that didn’t compel me to inhale it. Don’t get me wrong—I loved the book. It just took me a longer time (a month!!!) than usual to finish it. Maybe because it was slower? Or that it was dark? If it is because of those two reasons, that’s interesting because it is also for those two reasons that I liked the book: its pace and world is different from what I normally read. Huh.

The Vorrh

This one took a little longer to read than my usual. Whenever I leave the world of fantasy, it does take me a while to get back into it. Basically: I took longer to get into the book because I needed more time to process what was going on and how the story was being told. Once I figured it all out, the reading went a lot faster until I finished the book and thought, “what? It’s over already?!”

Brian Catling spent a fair amount of time setting up The Vorrh. I liked the way he introduced each character (and there are many) and how I knew which character was which based on the tone of the chapter. Since there were so many things going on (and characters to follow!), I felt a bit overwhelmed at first. Once I familiarized myself with everything though, the story ended too quickly, and I had to decide whether or not to read the sequel already. (I put it off, as I had to read the month’s book club pick.)

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As I mentioned, this is a bit of a slow read. The Vorrh is a place, so there’s a lot of set up involved. It’s a fantasy novel that doesn’t need to include magical wands and spells (swish and flick) to captivate its readers. I brought and read this book while commuting to the office, and I almost missed my stop a few times because the book was so entertaining and because I had to focus so much to not be confused, oops. Pretty excited to read the next installment.

Random bit: I bought the book second-hand, and the previous owner’s (real???) name is Shadow Edwards. Isn’t that a cool sounding name? Maybe I should label my books with “from the library of …” Would that make me legit, too?