Wednesday, August 1, 2012

REVIEW: Lanceheim, by Tim Davys

Lanceheim, by Tim Davys. Published 2010 by HarperCollins. Crime Fiction. Translated from Swedish.

Lanceheim is the sequel to the plush-toy crime novel Amberville and the second in the Mollisan Town Quartet series by Tim Davys, a pseudonymous Swedish writer. More original and multilayered than Amberville, it's a puzzle and an enigma.

Mollisan Town is a land populated entirely by living stuffed animals, creatures made of fabric and stitches but otherwise as human as you or I. It's divided into four districts, not coincidentally the same as the four books in the series- Amberville, Lanceheim, Torquai and Yok. Yok comes out today and it's the publication of the final volume that spurred me to move forward in reading the series. I own all four volumes now and intend to keep going and finish this year.

In the mean time though, I read Lanceheim, very different, as I said, from its preceding book. Amberville was a fantasy noir; Lanceheim is harder to characterize. The story centers on a strange creature named Maximilian, different from all other Mollisan Town creatures in that he gets bigger over time, has fabric that gets red in the sun and even changes his appearance as he grows. He is raised by Eva Whippoorwill and Sven Beaver, who find him in the forest. Over time he becomes a shadowy figure, a prophet and the center of a strange religious movement. He utters strange things; he makes no sense but he seems to have the power to heal. Two stuffed animals narrate the story- Wolf Diaz, Maximilian's most loyal follower and oldest friend, and Reuben Walrus, a composer who is slowly going deaf, and is desperate to find the legendary Maximilian and be healed of his illness which is destroying his life along with his hearing. But in Mollisan Town, everybody has a secret, even those whose secrets seem to be told.

This series has not fared well commercially and it's easy to see why. It's just not like anything else out there, and the books tend to get lost in the general fiction section when they should be shelved in fantasy next to their big brothers Robert Rankin and Terry Pratchett. Davys's books aren't anywhere as funny as Rankin and Pratchett; they're quite serious and even solemn in tone, but their fantasy-laced world of plush is hard to sell to the reader of general fiction.

I enjoyed Lanceheim; I found it more challenging than Amberville and a very satisfactory entry in the series. There was plenty of suspense to keep me turning the pages, and Davys creates some very complicated, engaging and surprising characters. Wolf Diaz keeps us guessing right till the end, and Maximilian is a strange and possibly unique creation. I want to see what else Davys has in store for us with the next two novels in the series, Torquai and Yok. I'll definitely keep you posted!


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from HarperCollins.


Zibilee said...

I remember hearing about the first book, but I didn't realize that it was a series, and that it continues on through a world of the plush animals. I can also see why this one hasn't been that popular, but I bet there is a great niche market that would love this. I am interested in it too! Great review today, Marie. The book sounds rather dark and complex.

Anonymous said...

What an unusual premise for a quartet of books! I do rather like the style of the cover art and the quirky setting sounds intriguing too.